Shigeru and Naomi
We had been traveling for days, through the warm, blinding sunlight and the desolate, harsh night, through rain that pelted so hard against the palanquin that it felt like someone was tossing stones. The trip to Hagi was far too long and the ladies were already dismayed to hear that it would be still a few more days until they reached the city's majestic walls.
I was fifteen years old and one of the most beautiful women I had known. I was silly and shallow and seemed to expect that I could have what I wanted, when I wanted. The other ladies would spend their days fussing over me, putting more powder on my already exaggerated face, combing my already flawless hair. Admiration was second nature to me, and I took it all in, like a hungry baby. We were travelling to Hagi to have the two families reunited; The Otoris and the Maruyamas. There was even talk of a marriage.
"Oh, Naomi, look at your hair!" my mother squealed at me "It is too shaped! Come here and let me comb it for you." I crawled over and she took me in her arms and, as she combed my hair, sang me a song that I had known since I was small;
"Life was like a moonless night, shrouded in the stars. Beauty can be such a fright, but now you're in my arms." Her melodic voice filled the palanquin and I joined in at the chorus. "You are my life now, can't you see, I'd climb mountains, I'd swim seas, to be with you. That's enough for me."
My mother giggled and kissed my forehead. "You are the most beautiful girl in the world. Do well with it."
I beamed and looked out of the windows at the groves of cherry blossoms.
. . .
We finally arrived in Hagi, about at midday the next day and were escorted to the palace. It was almost as grand as my palace at home and had gardens that went on for acres, filled with the most wondrous ponds and trees, all bearing the most delicious fruit and the most colorful flowers. We were led to a large, open room with huge windows, looking onto the back garden and pond and my mother put upon herself to argue with the maid, complaining that too much sunlight was coming into the room and it was giving her a headache. I instantly announced that I was going exploring. My mother barely gave me a nod, so I ran out of the room, down the stairs and out of the house
It was colder than I thought it was going to be and an icy breeze swept my hair back, revealing my perfect face, to which some guards tutted and whistled. Usually, I would smile and talk to them but I didn't. There was something different about those men, something sinister, that made me want to get as far away as possible. Stumbling, I turned on myself and went to the larger pond.
The pond was beautiful, so clear that it could be a mirror, reflecting my amazing features and was studded with pink cherry blossoms. Staring at it, I sat down on the cold, stone bench and stared into the water. It seemed to be calling for me, I seemed to fall deeper, and deeper into it until-
"Who are you?" a voice interrupted my thoughts. I jumped, and in doing so, whirled around, and fell into the pond. That water. It felt like a thousand swords and knives stabbing me everywhere, the pain was so great. As I surfaced, I gasped for air, but found myself still going under. Nothing was visible, except for tiny bubbles and confusion. I tried to pull myself up, but my arms just went through the water. All of a sudden my body gave in and started to sink to the bottom, but just as an arm reached out around my waist and pulled me up.
As I felt the air, I breathed out and was horrified to find that I was breathing out water. My eyes stung, yet I opened them for a moment to look at my savior. He was young, maybe seventeen or eighteen with thick black hair, now wet from the water and black eyes. He was unmistakably handsome and had strong arms.
"Are you alright?" he asked me, his eyes brimming with concern at they caught mine. Those eyes. They looked like they were somehow disconnected, like they were dreaming. I felt a little leap when they looked into mine, sort of completeness. Suddenly realizing what I looked like, I straightened myself up and took a couple of coughs.
"I am fine" I managed "You had simply startled me"
"My greatest apologies for that" He replied "I am Otori Shigeru, son of Lord Otori Makeshi"
"I am Lady Maruyama Naomi, daughter of Lord Maruyama Fujishiro." I snuck a glance at him. His eyes were full of care and safety and I wanted to pull him in an embrace, although unsuitable for an unmarried woman. Instead I smiled and he grinned in return
"Maruyama. Your family is staying here to arrange the marriage of my cousin to a Lady Maruyama Yuka"
"Yes, that is my second cousin. We have travelled for many days, so I must ask you to excuse me of my appearance." I mustered.
"If you will pardon me, too," Shigeru replied, in a faint whisper "you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen; there are no flaws to your appearance."
This was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard yet I knew that I should have not let him say it, that It was wrong for an unmarried woman to go any further.
"I must go" I whispered "My mother will be looking for me"
"Here" he says "take this" he handed me a cherry blossom flower. "Until we meet again"
"Until we meet again"
I decided to have a cherry blossom as my sign because it is one of the most romantic and beautiful trees in Japan and I wanted it to represent how their relationship would go on. I have many short sentences to end things because I want this to be, rather than storytelling, to be descriptive and poetic, which is why I added so many adjectives. I thought that if he rescued her, they would have a stronger bond and would be more emotionally connected. I made up another small storyline about a marriage because I thought it was a good idea that would bring them to Hagi.
I wanted to do the story in first person because I felt that it would be more personal and as Lady Maruyama is a key character in Across the Nightingale Floor I thought it would be appropriate to have her telling the story.
The purpose of this scene is to bring some more background to Lady Maruyama and Lord Shigeru's characters; how they met, what they were like, what they thought about themselves and about others and how their views on themselves changed with the story. As I did it from Lady Maruyama's point of view, I wasn't able to get much perspective from his side. However, I made a very important change in Lady Maruyama. As shown in the second paragraph, and at various other points in the text, she thinks a lot of her looks and believes she is beautiful and a bit foolish because of it, and is grounded to earth when she meets Shigeru.
I use personification in the eleventh paragraph, when I said that the pond was calling to her, as I thought that if she was entranced to the pond, she wouldn't have noticed Shigeru coming behind her, adding to the surprise. They speak very formally to each other, and then gradually their speech turns more friendly and casual, and then formal as she realizes that she has to get back.
The imagery I used is very beautiful and I wanted it to create a scene of almost fantasy, as if she was living in a dream and met him, with my description of the nature being so colorful and picturesque.
I think that the extract is successful in bringing forward the bit of background information but I could have used more descriptive language and adjectives to express myself better.