Creation's Lament Chapter One: The Creation's Maker
Naoko slipped a bit on the wet stones as she raced down the mountain track and towards the village below her. The villagers, already being warned of her plight, jumped out of her way as the eccentric mountain quilter made a beeline to her old friend's home.
She threw the door open with a loud bang, her long acquaintance with the village toymaker excusing her manners. The healer stepped back as the woman moved towards the bed, the old man on it taking a few shaky breaths.
"Naoko… I was afraid you wouldn't make it."
She smiled warmly and held his hand.
"I will always come when you call, Minazuki. You should know that by now."
The man chuckled, which gave away to gasps.
"Yashi, I need a moment alone with Mrs. Yoshioka."
The healer was surprised, but did as requested. The red-haired woman locked the door behind her at Minazuki's urging.
"Naoko, do you know what a Creation is?"
Her hands froze on the steady beam that kept the door shut. She walked over to her friend to hold his hand.
"Who doesn't? Creations are objects that were made with enough love to receive a soul. But hardly anyone believes they exist anymore; why are you bringing this up?"
The man looked up at a worn wooden shelf.
"Do you see the figurine up there? Could you set her on the night stand for me?"
Naoko looked up, immediately seeing the one he wanted, since he had shown it to her a few times before. Although the old toymaker left most of his wares in the front part of the house, he had left this one in the bedroom with him. The quilter took it down, admiring the exquisite detail put into the foot tall toy.
It was a young girl, perhaps a teenager, dressed in a traditional green kimono, her huge brown eyes expressive and a shy smile on her lips. Naoko had always had a soft spot in her heart for this doll, since it looked so lifelike. 'Haru' was a realistic beauty, merely pretty until one looked her in the eyes, which could blow any mind with their sincerity. Minazuki had shown her the doll first, when he had finished carving it from a solid piece of maple wood. Her limbs couldn't move around, declaring her to be a display doll, not a playing one.
But her eyes…they could almost make one believe she was real. Naoko always had a personality in her head for the girl, if she had been born alive. Quiet, respectful, caring… why did her mind always go off-track like that when she thought of the doll?
Minazuki nodded as his friend set the doll on the table as requested.
"I may not be able to give her much, but she is just as intelligent as she is beautiful."
Naoko turned to him sharply.
"What do you mean? She's a doll."
The old man grinned at her, and then looked at the figurine again.
"It's safe, Haru. I wish for you to meet Naoko. Don't be shy."
The quilter was certain that her friend was going mad, but then the doll flashed with an inner light and began to move. Naoko watched in amazement as wood became flesh, and a live girl bowed low to her, still not reaching knee-height on a regular human adult.
"It's wonderful to really meet you, Naoko. Father never stops talking about you."
The red-haired woman stared at the doll, and then her maker.
"You… made… a Creation?"
The chances were very slim of actually making an artificial soul, and even slimmer of keeping one, since they were of immense worth; being a rarity. The man smiled tiredly.
"Yes. It took me thirty years to do it, but Haru's worth every second it took."
The doll smiled lovingly at him. The toymaker took a shaky breath.
"Naoko, you know that I was in love with a woman when I was younger, and she left me for someone else?"
The woman nodded, being familiar with his sad story.
"Well, I knew after she left that I couldn't ever love another woman like that, but I didn't wish to be alone. Haru is my daughter, and I'm very proud of her, but I can't take care of her after I finish dying."
The doll gasped and jumped off the stand onto the bed to hold his hand. Her tiny hands clung to a finger.
"Please Father, don't die. I don't want you to leave."
He smiled lovingly at his girl and rubbed her tears away with one finger.
"If I could stay with you, I would gladly do so, but I am mortal, and have no choice in the matter. Naoko, it would be an honor if you would take care of my Haru for me. She's very smart, great company, and can be a surprisingly good help around the house. She's been the light of my life, the ten years we've had together."
He broke off to cough terribly, alarming both Naoko and Haru.
"Please, Naoko; do this one thing for me, and I will be able to leave peacefully."
The red-haired woman looked down at the brunette. She would be lying if she said she wasn't lonely, being a widow up in a tiny cottage with no children. That was partially why she had developed such a strong bond with the toymaker, because he looked as lonely as she felt. But keeping a Creation… that would be very risky, considering what some people were willing to do for one. But Minazuki was her friend, and Haru did seem like a sweet girl.
"I will treat her as my own."
The man smiled in relief, the Creation looking a little scared.
He looked at her, and held one finger under her chin so he could lock eyes with her.
"Sweetheart, you are an immortal. You will need to find a way to deal with death, especially that of loved ones. Please don't let time turn you cold, and you know where you can go when all else fails."
"The Refuge. I will never forget you, Father. I love you."
He beamed brighter as his own tears clouded his vision.
"I love you too… my daughter."
His eyes closed, and he took a final breath. Then he was still forever more. Haru wept into her hands as Naoko gently took the doll and embraced her fiercely. She had also loved the old toymaker, but was comforted in the fact that she had repeatedly told him so. Haru wrapped her arms around Naoko's neck the best she could manage, Creation tears soaking the collar of her new keeper's dress.
"Naoko? Is everything all right in there?"
A voice called from the other door. The quilter gasped softly, looking at her new charge. The Creation nodded, and stepped away from her embrace to walk back onto the table. Naoko answered the call as she watched Haru shift back into wood.
"Minazuki's passed on."
The healer marched in after the mountain quilter opened the door, her sad smile unsurprised.
"I know you were close to him. My condolences."
Naoko nodded, and picked up her doll.
"Hey, that's pretty. Did he give it to you?"
The quilter nodded again as she gently wrapped the treasure in the side of her jacket.
Within the safety of her home, Naoko extracted the Creation from the fabric and set her on the table she ate and planned her quilts on.
"It's safe, Haru. No one's around but me."
The doll shifted into flesh, and she looked around her new home.
"This is nice, Naoko."
The woman smiled at the compliment while looking around the pantry.
"Would you like something to eat?"
Haru looked at her, puzzled.
"You are aware I don't need to, right? I wouldn't want to take food away from someone that needed it."
Naoko grinned at her.
"You don't have to worry about that; with your size it would barely make a difference either way. Do you like tea?"
The Creation nodded, and the woman started some. When it was ready, Naoko was at a loss on how Haru could drink it neatly. A thimble proved to be the perfect size cup for her, and toothpicks made excellent chopsticks for her when the woman made rice for dinner. When the sun began to set, Naoko started looking around for something Haru could sleep on.
"I can sleep standing up, Naoko. You don't have to go through this fuss on my account."
The red-haired woman shook her head.
"I promised to look after you as my own, and I intend to do so. I should have thought to ask if you had any personal items at Minazuki's."
"I didn't. I don't require much."
The woman looked at her doll's clothes, noting that the very edges were frayed slightly. Being a quilter, she surely had enough scraps around to make the Creation a few changes of clothes. Since she was so small, it wouldn't even take her long to do it. She found an old shoebox and lined it with a soft flannel fabric. She placed the box next to Haru on top of the table.
"All right, young lady. Lights out."
The Creation grinned and bowed to her.
"Thank you, Naoko. Um, would you mind terribly if I called you Mother?"
The quilter's eyes widened at hearing a word that she never thought would be directed at her personally. But after her husband died and she had lost her chances to become the word, Haru's offer was more than welcome.
"I would love that. Good night, my girl."
Haru smiled happily and snuggled between the sheets of her makeshift bed while Naoko blew out the candle.
"Sweet dreams, Mother."