Chapter 1 Chapter 1

Why is it so hot?

Long, black tongs, a craftsman's tool, reached through the ribbons of burning air, pushing them aside and splitting them around its resistant length. The teeth of the controlled jaw closed gently, tenderly, around the small figure that stood among the waves of heat in the annealing oven.

So much better.

The air was still hot, but less so, and slightly more humid – the sweat of a craftsman working hard making the workshop smell heady, rather than achingly dry. A solid surface rose up from beneath, and the blackened maw withdrew.

On the shelf, the foot-high glass figure stood, perfectly poised and lovely. Mahogany curls dripped from an ivory-tinted face. Jewels made from honey and amber were aglow, perhaps reflecting the fire of the furnace. Beneath the cloudy dress, or perhaps nightgown, tiny feet and perfect ankles could just be seen. Slender arms hung by the gown's billowing sides.

The young man smiled. He was a journeyman, but this figure was his masterpiece, and he had laboured seven long days and nights, wanting his creation to be prefect. The first day, he had made her naked form with the ivory coloured glass. The second day, he had covered that perfect, delicate form with the dress, hiding the soft curves modestly. The third, fourth, and fifth days, he had tested, through trial and error, on junk glass from the cullet barrel, how the hair would flow, the eyes would shine, and how he would add the lace and ribbons to the dress. On the sixth day, he had applied the result of his testing, growing the hair from her head. This, the seventh day, was an understanding of eyes, and at last, she was finished, even her time in the annealing oven was over.

"My masterpiece, my delicate little fey," he said, smiling happily at the beauty. This was why he had become a glassmaker: to make beautiful things, all delicate and precious.

"The time has come –" said a voice behind him.

"The walrus said," he quipped, the smile still on his face as he turned to the man who had taught him so much.

"To talk of many things," the older man said, nodding his head, a chuckle in his voice as he smiled at his friend. "I suppose you'll be leaving me now eh, Master von Jokingen?"

The lad's smile grew at the new title. He had done it. He was a master of his trade.

"I suppose so," he answered. "There are a one or two things left for me to do with my life, after all."

"Marrying that young lady of yours not the least among them."

The younger man blushed, and the elder laughed at his shyness.

"Humbert my boy, if you don't make a ring and propose to Louise today – the day you have become a master of your trade…"

The tawny-haired and be-freckled youth did not need further telling, and got to work. Three hours passed, and the only interruption in to his work in that time was a trip to the jewel-cutters for a diamond to set in the ring. The sun was going down now, but at last, he was done.

"Hah?" A slap and an "ooh!" followed shortly after.

The new master Humbert turned to the workshop's open door and smiled again. His best friend and his sweetheart both were standing in the half-light. He followed his friend's gaze.

"I'll make that your name then," he told the glass girl. "Haru. Hmm, sounds foreign… I don't know what sort of last name will go with Haru."

"Yoshioka," Louise answered to the query presented to her in her Humbert's eyes. She moved to stand beside him. "My cousin visiting Japan has made a friend there called Yoshioka," she added by way of explanation.

Humbert nodded. "Haru Yoshioka it is then… Louise, I got my mastery today."

The ring was still warm, but now only pleasantly so – it wouldn't burn or blister, and he held it carefully in his hand. He was nervous, but he couldn't not ask.

"I knew you would," Louise said, her blue eyes glowing brightly in the furnace-light as she smiled proudly at him.

"Louise –" he took her hand tenderly in his, going down on one knee. "Will you marry me?" Hope was written all over his sweaty face, as he held the ring poised at the tip of the appropriate finger on her left hand.

"Of course I will!"

My name is Haru Yoshioka.