Today’s excerpt is from me, Kelly Matsuura! It’s a little weird promoting as the editor and also being a contributor, but this particular anthology is special to me because I LOVE Japanese castles, plus I have 2 stories in this collection.
I also have a story in Japanese Fantasy Stories called ‘The Waiting World’ that’s set at Matsumoto Castle in Nagano prefecture. I almost did a solo castle collection, but trust me, this multi-author one is MUCH more fun.
The following story has a winter motif, set at a fictional castle. It was originally a literary flash piece (just the first scene), but I expanded it for this anthology and added some mystery and magic. I hope you like it!
‘WAITING BY THE OTOGAWA RIVER’
BY KELLY MATSUURA
Minutes passed. Hikaru stood quite still, the journal pressed to her chest, patiently waiting to see him, yet he never appeared. She had heard him skating though, hadn’t she? Or was someone else on the ice perhaps?
“Genjiro?” she called softly. She had to be careful not to be discovered by anyone, lest they tell her father she was there.
Swhoosh, swhoosh. There was that sound again.
Losing patience, Hikaru tucked the journal into her obi and lifted her kimono off the ground as she stepped towards the river edge. She parted the tall reeds with one hand and whispered again, “Genjiro? Are you there?”
The wind blew rough then, scattering leaves and knocking the reeds into her face.
But she heard it— “Hikaruuuu!”
Where was he?
Snowflakes fell from the sky and the cold stung her cheeks, yet she couldn’t give up. Squinting against the wind and snow, she took a step onto the ice. Finding that her wooden geta weren’t too slippery, she took another step. Then another.
She saw him then, skating back and forth across the river, one hand shielding his eyes, the other tucked into his jacket pocket for warmth.
Something was wrong. He skated towards her but looked right through her and turned around again.
“Hikaru!” he called, heading further down the riverbank.
“Genjiro, I’m here! Over here!”
The light shimmered between them, some kind of veil, dividing their two worlds.
She immediately choked back tears. Had it always been this way? Had he in fact been visiting her from the afterworld these past years, or had he only recently died, and was now trapped on the other side?
She frantically reached into the folds of her obi to retrieve the journal and heaved a sigh of relief that it was still there.
Still, she couldn’t understand what was happening.
What was real, and what was from a life, and love, imagined?
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Insignia: Castles & Kimono is also included in the new omnibus edition The Insignia Series Omnibus Volumes 5-8. If you haven’t read the previous volumes you might like to buy this set at the discounted price!
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