Characters: Stepping On Roses
Sumi Ashida (née Kitamura) (or better said, Aiko Iijyuin)
The Protagonist of the story, Sumi is a kind, motherly, compassionate, but incredibly poor girl living in the slums of Yokohama with her brother Eisuke and adopted siblings. Her life is extremely difficult, as she has no means to feed her siblings or pay the rent for her tiny house. To save her family from dying in poverty, she takes the deal Sōichirō offers her: enter into a loveless marriage with him.As Sōichirō's wife, she tries hard to be educated and enter high society while keeping her commoner roots hidden. Because of their agreement to not fall in love with each other and her husband's coldness towards her, she initially finds herself attracted to his friend, Nozomu Ijūin .
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Apparently, even if they initially preferred the gentlemanly type.
- Babies Ever After
- Berserk Button: Sumi always had a dislike for roses, but her reactions toward them get more severe as the series goes on. At first, it's mild discomfort, but towards the end she starts fainting and angrily throwing them into the water when they're offered to her.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: She cruelly tells Sōichirō that because he lost everything, she no longer wants to be with him and is leaving him for Nozomu. But Nozomu was present at the time she said that. She visits Sōichirō alone and confesses that it was a lie and is actually working on a plan to have him as President of his company again.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: Some of her outfits are more like modern lolita clothing than what would be accurate for the time period.
- Happily Married
- Honey Trap: Sōichirō's primary motivation for marrying Sumi was to set up a Honey Trap for Nozomu, with Sumi as the unwitting "mole."
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Sumi, for only a few minutes, attempts to sell herself for ¥2,000 (which equals to ¥3,000,000 presently) in order to save her adopted siblings from being sold to another country by a man whom Eisuke owes that amount to. Because Sōichirō shows up at that point, she ends up not doing it after all.
- The Ingenue: Sumi, sweetie, going to the house of a man who is obsessed with you and tried to murder you is not a good idea. Especially if you go alone. No amount of purity, innocence or general amiability is going to help you out if he flips.
- Long-Lost Relative: It is revealed in chapter 55 that Sumi is Nozomu's missing blood sister, Aiko.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Wore many of them.
- Plucky Girl: Sumi keeps dusting herself off and getting up again, no matter how life treats her.
- Promotion to Parent: Sumi and (to a far lesser extent) Eisuke for their adopted younger siblings.
- Rags to Riches: One of the main themes of the series, as Sumi is given the choice to leave her life of poverty behind — but only if she becomes the wife of an extravagantly wealthy young bachelor.
- Taking A Level In Badass: Sumi, who starts out as a naive and confused ingenue, starts to show shades of this when she vows to gain back for Soichiro the company that Nozomu took away from him.
- Their First Time: With Soichiro in chapter 52.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Despite a couple of close calls, she still falls into this. It is, however, mostly Sōichirō's fault than Sumi's; he thought Nozomu was no longer a threat, as Sumi initially didn't want to be around him anymore after the hotel incident.
The hero of the story, Sōichirō is a young rich man and the next in line to inherit Ashida Properties. To do so, however, he must find a wife before the date set by his grandfather. For that reason, he offers a deal to Sumi: she must enter into a marriage in which neither is allowed to fall in love with the other, in exchange for money.Sōichirō is initially cold and aloof, manipulating his wife for his own ends. He is unfamiliar with how different her poor lifestyle is, and has his butler Komai teach her the ways of his high status. While he only uses Sumi at first, he falls in love with her as the story progresses.
- Attempted Rape: After overhearing Sumi telling their butler that she has no intention of betraying her husband, Soichiro rewards her loyalty by forcing himself on her in an attempt to get her to hate him, driving her into the arms of Nozomu. He stops when she promises to try her best to love him, and he replies by yelling that there isn't any love allowed in the marriage. It's not clear if he would actually have raped her, or if it was an attempt to frighten her...still, pretty disturbing.
- Babies Ever After
- Be Careful What You Wish For: So Sōichirō, you want Nozomu to fall for Sumi as part of an evil scheme to get the Ijūin bank's total support? Okay! After all there's no way he'll ever try to turn out to be a crazy yandere that will do absolutely anything to possess her later on. Nope, no chance of that happening.
- Berserk Button: He completely freaks out whenever he sees fire. This is due to his family perishing in a house fire when he was a child, and his other relatives accused him of setting it.
- Domestic Abuser: Romance or not, there's no way around it — this is the way Sōichirō treats Sumi as the story begins. There's physical violence, verbal abuse, Moving The Goal Posts (Sōichirō keeps making additional demands as Sumi meets his requirements) and Attempted Rape. And that's not even counting the fact that his nice moments have the effect, intentionally or not, of psychological mindgaming; Sumi is continually thrown off guard as he switches from aloof to violent to pleasant.
- Flower Motifs: He fits the comparison with a rose... beautiful, but painful whenever Sumi gets too close.
- Happily Married
- Heel-Face Turn
- Heroic Bastard: He was the result of his father's affair with a concubine. His relatives didn't treat him very well for it. The sister of his father's wife goes so far as to blame him for the death of his family.
- Hypocrite: Sōichirō orders Sumi not to love him...then gets possessive of her.
- In Love with the Mark: Sōichirō originally married Sumi to get his inheritence and manipulate Nozomu. However, slowly but surely, he falls for her.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Treats his wife coldly, scolds her for her naivety regarding high society...but still runs to save her from dying in a fire and helps her with her adoptive family.
- Manipulative Bastard
- Mood Whiplash: Sōichirō is the personification of this trope, but in the story itself we have an Attempted Rape, shortly followed by the heroine cooing over how childish her husband is, then a rather sweet dance scene... which ends with Sōichirō ripping up a photo in his wife's face and yelling at her.
- Promotion to Parent
- Son of a Whore: Sōichirō is the son of his father's concubin, and that's the reason why his relatives hate him so much.
- Their First Time: With Sumi in chapter 52.
- Tsundere: It's not that he's affectionate or anything, he's just rewarding Sumi for her good performance! Right.
- Your Cheating Heart: Soichiro's original scheme revolves around this.
Nozomu IjūinSōichirō's best friend and in line to inherit his father's bank. He first meets Sumi when she's trying to get a doctor to see one of the children she takes care of, giving her a wad of cash for the bill and his monogrammed handkerchief. Sumi falls for him immediatly, calling him "The Handkerchief Prince" and one day hopes to thank him. They meet again after Sumi and Sōichirō's wedding, as Sōichirō is secretly trying to get the two of them to fall for each other for his own gain.It works, but it turns out that Nozumu, despite his initial gentlemanly exterior, is a jealous, possesive man who wants to make Sumi his own... No matter what it takes.
- Attempted Rape: Nozomu attempts this several times. The time he's most determined is later in the series when he's drunk. This results in Sumi smacking him in the head with a lamp... which leads to Nozomu screaming her name and chasing after her... breaking down doors with an ax, The Shining style.
- Arranged Marriage: With Miu.
- Ax-Crazy: Nozomu eventually shows himself to be this, and plays it literally later in the story when he searches for Sumi in the hotel they're staying at, hacking through walls and doors to find her. She and Soichiro were consummating their marriage at the time.
- Babies Ever After: With Miu in the finale.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Aww, look at that nice gentleman helping Sumi in her time of need! Look at him stand up for her when her husband mistreats her! He brought her flowers - OH GOD THESE POOR FLOWERS, WHAT'S UP WITH HIS CRAZY FACE... RUN SUMI RUN!
- Brother-Sister Incest: Comepletely one-sided. Finding out that Sumi is really his blood sister Aiko doesn't sway Nozomu's feelings for her one bit.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Where to begin!
- Crazy Jealous Guy: To insane proportions. He even goes so far as to go around with an ax "Here's Johnny" style trying to catch Sumi "cheating on him."
- Death Glare: Oh dear God.
- Derailing Love Interests: Nozomu goes from "princely" gentleman to possessive psychopath as the series progresses.
- Easily Forgiven: In the finale.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: When Nozomu takes Soichiro's company and establishes himself as the true villain of the series, he goes from wearing his hair loose and in his face to slicking it back, giving him a colder, more mature appearance.
- Face-Heel Turn
- Foreshadowing: The first hint of Nozomu's yandere tendencies is shown when Nozomu is by the gates of Soichiro's mansion with a bouquet of roses in his hands. When Nozomu sees Sumi and Soichiro happy and enjoying each other's company through a window, he becomes completely enraged, complete with evil eyes, and tightens his grip on the roses so hard his hands bleed, resulting in them being bandaged.
- Happy Marriage Charade: This is how he feels toward his marriage to Miu. He stops thinking this way towards her in the finale.
- Happily Married: To Miu in the finale.
- Hypocrite: He calls Soichiro out on how badly he treats Sumi... Then later kidnaps her and tries to pull a muder-suicide with her.
- Jerkass: Nozomu behaves very coldly towards Miu.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Is the posterboy for this trope.
- Manipulative Bastard: Ends up getting Soichiro's company merged with his own by helping Natsuki stage his coup... then pulling the company right out of his fingers.
- Sanity Slippage: Nozomu goes from "nice person" to "psychotic yandere" more and more as the series progresses. Has it been mentioned that he becomes a crazy bastard yet?
- Shadow Archetype: To Soichiro. Soichiro starts the series as a complete Jerkass when his feelings for Sumi causes him to become a much more caring, loving, person. Conversely, Nozomu starts out as a kind, caring gentleman who's feelings for Sumi eventually cause him to become an Ax-Crazy Yandere.
- Together in Death: Tries to pull this with Sumi in the third volume before Soichiro pulls a Big Damn Heroes and saves them both.
- Villain Team-Up: With Natsuki.
- Yandere: AND HOW!
Gengorō KomaiSōichirō's butler, Komai has been a servant for the Ashida family since he was a child. His primary role in the story is to serve as Sōichirō's support and help with his plans. He also teaches Sumi how to read, write and behave as a proper lady.
- Manipulative Bastard
- No Sympathy: Komai initially appears sympathetic of Sumi's situation, but his loyalty ultimately lies with Sōichirō. He's quick to blame Sumi when something happens to Sōichirō, never taking into account that Sumi is young, confused, lonely and being used as a chess piece.
Eisuke KitamuraSumi's older brother, Eisuke is a young, handsome man. He's also a womanizer with a severe gambling habit, making him responsible for most of his family's debts. He also has a strange habit of picking up orphans and adopting them into the family. Halfway through the story, he's hired into Ashida Properties.
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Eisuke has a habit of finding abandoned children and bringing them home to live with him and Sumi.
- The Gambling Addict: this, even more than the children he brings home for Sumi to care for, is the primary source of their financial troubles.
- Karma Houdini: Charms and uses everyone in his immediate vicinity, no sign of major consequences (for him) as yet. One of several characters in the story who is long overdue for a piano falling on top of him.
- Only in It for the Money: Eisuke's primary motivation for collecting so many orphaned children, as he plans to have them work for him in his future business endeavors (or, in the case of sister Tomi, to be married off to a family of higher status.)
- Promotion to Parent
Miu Ijūin (née Fujiwara)A young woman from a highly respected family, Miu becomes Nozomu's wife at some point in the series. A classic Japanese lady, she deeply cares for her husband and does her best to watch over him. Although she loves Nozomu, he acts uninterested towards her, prompting her to befriend Sumi... but soon, the poor girl starts cracking under the pressure...
- Arranged Marriage: With Nozomu.
- Ax-Crazy: Miu slashes Nozomu's artwork of Sumi with a knife, then later tries to stab Sumi herself.
- Babies Ever After: With Nozomu in the finale.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Break the Cutie: She came to her Arranged Marriage with Nozomu as a somewhat Wide-Eyed Idealist, even falling in love with her betrothed, but with Nozomu's downward spiral into obsession with Sumi, she goes on her own downward spiral as well. When Nozumu outmaneuvers Soichiro out of his own company and takes Sumi for his own, Miu is abandoned in a near-catatonic state. She's getting a bit better, though.
- Easily Forgiven: In the finale.
- Happily Married: To Nozomu in the finale.
- Hime Cut
- Love at First Sight: To Nozomu.
- Love Makes You Crazy
- Sanity Slippage: Due to Break the Cutie.
Natsuki KujōSoichiro’s step-cousin and vice-president of Ashida Products. He disregards Soichiro and plans to take him down as President.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Eventually by Nozomu. See Nozomu's Manipulative Bastard example above.
- Manipulative Bastard
- Villain Team-Up: With Nozomu.
- Your Cheating Heart: Natsuki pulls a particularly cruel example on the smitten Keiko, bluntly telling her that he intends to marry...but not to worry, because he'll keep Keiko as his mistress.
Keiko KinoshitaA newly hired maid who works at Soichiro’s mansion. On the outside she seems helpful and trustworthy, but she is really hired by Natsuki to spy on Soichiro and Sumi. She also has feelings for Natsuki.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She does become nicer, though.
- Everyone Has Standards: When Keiko realizes Natsuki is engaged to someone else, he informs her that she can be his mistress. Keiko declines and breaks ties with him. She also becomes more respectful towards Sumi and Soichiro.
- Honey Trap: Keiko tries this once other tactics fail to work, and when that fails she falls back on the Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
- Meido: While she's being a spy for Natsuki.
- The Mole: Natsuki has Keiko to work as a maid to spy on Sumi and Soichiro.
- Plucky Girl: How she portrays herself to Sumi and Soichiro, but it's only an act.