The Princess and the Gardens

The Princess and the Gardens

A Chapter by Kuandio

        




            Ayaka Soranoyume gazed across the palace gardens, and prayed this would not be the last spring.

            The seasons could be so fleeting, and if what many starseers warned was true, a terrible winter was coming. Beyond this, the future was obscured. Though she did not wish to believe such forebodings, just a few hours gone, she beheld over two hundred mounted samurai set forth from Shenobi's palace. In the early light their crimson armor invoked visions of the Dragon of Fire, scales clinking and shimmering as the regiment surged down the Street of a Thousand Cherry Trees. To the baying of a giant ram's horn, the riders' lines rumbled through the jade gates, spears high and bristling, the blood-red standards of the Kyojin Kasai Phoenix aflutter in the dawn wind.

            Amaterasu, protect them. A young woman's place was not on the battlefield; nonetheless, Ayaka could beseech the sun goddess on their behalf. Verily, she could perhaps achieve more than any warrior, though she was uncertain she was willing to take the risk. It could make things worse for her own people. For now it was safer to pray. May they return. May the lords of the South find another way.

            One of the reasons she came to the gardens was to forget the volatile situation afflicting the realms of the South. Here, alone, lost in the verdure, she could forget the whole world. Resting her hands on the sunlit balustrade, Ayaka looked over the boughs and breathed deeply. Last night's rains had washed everything and cleansed the air. The breeze rippled the kawazuzakura petal-pink kimono around her slender frame, touching her black, silken hair, which cascaded from a loose half-bun to the white sash around her waist. It was just a few days before the start of spring, but winter was short-lived in the south, and cool fragrances from awakening blossoms and sprouting leaves drifted on the breeze. She closed her eyes and listened to the back and forth weaving of birdsong. Mornings like this she felt more alive, a warm song throughout her body and mind. For the time being, the shadow of Shogun Kage-maru and the threat of war that could sunder all of Isodoro seemed far away - less than the whisper of a dream, a pale frost that evanesces with the first beams of dawn.

            The other purpose that brought Ayaka to the gardens was the same which guided her here everyday these past weeks. The Dojen temple's master had advised that if she wanted to understand the Seishin-yodo, such environs were ideal for meditation. In her search for the transcendent power, Ayaka had paid heed, returning here each morning, or afternoon. Standing on the outermost palace platforms afforded her a grand view of Shenobi's royal gardens. The sight permeated her so profoundly that for moments she lost sense of separation between herself and the surroundings, a part of her drifting.

            The steps descended to white-wash pebble paths, bordered by susurrating bamboo and cedar. Further, mosses, bonsais, ferns, and a stirring tapestry of flowering colors edged the walks. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds attended the array of vivid hues. Beyond stood white pines, soaking the morning sun, and maple groves casting lavender shade. Through the swaying branches, Ayaka discerned ebbing slivers of a glimmering kuoy pond rimmed by lilies and guarded by water oak and willow. Ducks and swans drifted on the waters. An elegant gold-leaf teahouse sat by the shores.

            What is this mystery I sense in the way it's all been arranged and trimmed? Ayaka could not understand it, but she felt it - an echo of the Seishin-yodo's perfection, birthed from seeming chaos. It was here; somehow, it was everywhere. More than this nebulous impression she failed to fathom, and doubted the stewards who shaped the gardens could explain exactly how the balance originated either. Nevertheless, Ayaka yearned to understand the harmony - no - she needed to.

            Although overwhelming beauty such as the gardens existed, she was fully aware of how temporal, how painfully meaningless everything could become; how the things she loved most could be taken away and lost forever. If she did not learn the ways of Seishin-yodo, Ayaka feared she would fail in everything.

            While contemplating gardens, her thoughts merged into the nature until she was half awake, half in a trance. Behind what was seen, through mists, and reflections of water, clouds and sky, a presence beckoned. She perceived the snows and the forest again. Where is this place? There was something she had to find here. She almost remembered when the vision began to fade. The more Ayaka tried to hold onto it, the swifter it dissipated, until vanishing.

            It had been the same vision as before, the one lost in so many of her dreams. Was it more than this though? Perhaps it was a place that could be found? That must be found? Ayaka exhaled in resignation. One day she meant to learn the truth.

            The meditative practice had bestowed her an improved sense of wellbeing. She smiled at the gardens, thankful for the present moment. There was only one touch that would make it more beautiful. In the coming weeks the sakura would bloom. Ayaka had followed the cherry blossom all her life, waiting patiently for its return, year after year. Buds already adorned the naked branches. There was a magical quality in the snow-white and pastel-pink flowers that would be born.

 

            A woman shuffled across the terrace platform towards her. She was shorter, a bit plump, and almost old enough to be Ayaka's grandmother. Her grey-blue clothes were not as elegant as Ayaka's raiment - belying that she regularly busied herself with cleaning and such menial chores.

            “Ah, here you are my dove,” said the woman, with a touch of relief. “I’ve looked through half the city for you. I should’ve known you’d be here.”

            “You worry too much Noribuko-chan," said Ayaka with a smile.

            “But that’s my job!” The stout woman laughed.

            “Oh yes, yes, it is,” Ayaka answered playfully, hugging her aunt with a flush of affection.

            “Ok, that’s enough,” said Noribuko. As the embrace subsided the woman smiled despite her efforts to maintain a stern countenance. “Look, I need you to come back to the bathhouse to try on a kimono-dress your cousin Midori sent."

            “Really?” Ayaka sighed as if she were spent. “Whatever for?”

            “You know what for. The Saisei Spring Festival starts in just a few days, and there'll be hundreds of noble suitors in attendance. It’s high time you got noticed and attracted a husband."

            Ayaka turned back to the gardens.

            "What's wrong? It'll be easy for you, neh. You're tall, and so beautiful, like your mother. She was the most beautiful woman in the prefecture, I'll remind you."

            "Yes, I remember." Ayaka was wary not to mention that she'd already garnered far more attention than she wanted. Many daiymo men had taken to calling her Sora-hana, because they said she was likened to a daughter of the Sky-goddess. For her part, Ayaka doubted such claims.

            "Well, what is it then?"

            With the tranquility that reigned here, it was easy to forget the garden sanctuary was located in the middle of a sprawling metropolis with a populace of over a hundred thousand. And it was easy to forget why she and her aunt had come to Shenobi in the first place. Three weeks ago they left their homeland. Gurinhiruzu was a modest country of green hills and groves; thus in the gardens, Ayaka felt closer to home, a hundred miles from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the wonders and worries therein. A part of her sought replenishment in this haven of rustling leaves and gurgling fountains. She held to the hope that all life could be so simple. But her aunt had reminded her of the primary purpose for their extended visit to the southern capital; namely, to join the high-ranking daiymo nobility. Eeee! Ayaka had a desire to sprout wings and fly off out of reach of this and so many things expected of her on this earth.

            "Your uncle Tayori is being very considerate in allowing you the opportunity to choose who you'll potentially marry. Most young women never get such a chance."

            “Yes, I know.” Ayaka nodded glumly. She steeped in the quiet until Noribuko spoke again:

            “It's my duty to remind you that if you're unable to find a suitable choice, your uncle will arrange a match by the end of the year.”

            Ayaka said nothing. She would be forced to marry. That was that. It conjured an image of herself trapped in one of those tiny ornate palanquins, transported to a faraway kingdom, a gift to a man she had never even met. She could scarcely bear the notion.

            “I'm so sorry.” Noribuko. “I know you don't fancy marrying any of the daiymo, but there's no choice. Maybe Gurinhiruzu is a small prefecture, but you're a princess nonetheless, neh, and the sole heir to Kenkoya Castle. What else would you do?”

            Ayaka barely kept herself from scoffing. “Just about anything. A life in the countryside, away from all the haughty pretension and seriousness of the courts.”

            “Oh? And where would you go instead? Maybe become a nomin farmer?”

            “No. I'd be free,” Ayaka answered, “I'd journey wherever I wanted. Even sail beyond the Sea of Kodaina Suiro to see the Main Land Empires. And I'd learn about the Seishin-yodo until I became a Senshin."

            “A noble pursuit; unfortunately that samurai order has not existed for centuries - if it ever existed. You shouldn't entertain fantasies when you have a duty to your kingdom.” Her aunt came to stand at her side and looked out over the gardens with her. “Hmm. If you don't like the idea of wedding a man of the aristocracy, from where do you think to choose one? Out there?” She gestured beyond the gardens, across the irimoya-gabled roofs and over the city walls to the forested hills - bluish purple in the distance.

            Ayaka brightened with humor. “Yes, that’d be perfect." She preserved the thought before sighing in dejection, "…if such a man existed.”

            “You’re like a little girl still sometimes, neh?” Noribuko shook her head. “Not grounded enough. Daydreaming the hours away.”

            "So sorry." Ayaka put an arm around her aunt and rested her head against her shoulder. “I hope some things will never change.”

            For the time being at least, whether it be days or months, Ayaka could continue to be a girl with her aunt. For moments such as these she must be thankful. In silence, they contemplated the palace gardens, the sunshine warming them.  

            Concluding the peaceful lapse, Noribuko picked up right where they'd left off. “That would be nice Ayaka. The world has its demands however. We must find our strength in more than legends and hopeful dreams. That doesn't mean I won't always remember you as the young girl I helped raise. But there are things that do change.” Her aunt's voice was tentative. “You know, I won't be around to take care of you forever.”

            Ayaka pressed her other arm around Noribuko, as though her aunt might float away at any moment, and never be able to return. “Don’t say that Noribuko-chan.”

            Her aunt gazed forlornly into the distance. She was on the verge of tears, and her voice croaked unevenly. “I'm so sorry things have been so difficult for you my dove. It's been one tragedy after another, ... I wish they were still here with us …,” the words trailed into the haze of lingering grief.

            Ayaka tightened inside. It had been ten years since her father - the honorable lord of Gurinhiruzu - had been murdered in the dead of night by satsujin ninja sent by the clan of the Black Hand. That had riven her. Several years later, her dear mother, closely followed by her beloved brother and sister, were taken by the kuro-shi sickness. Ayaka still remembered the gloom of the funeral processions. She still remembered herself writhing grief-stricken on the floor in her room, crying until she thought she'd die.

            The breeze made a silvery rustling through the leaves, strewing her memories. Where had the gods been? Was it just karma, as all things were said to be? Regardless of her efforts to accept fate, and of the hope of an understanding that would allow her to live; regardless of everything, if reincarnation existed, Ayaka prayed she would find Takamagahara instead, for she never wanted to return to this world.

            Her melancholic ruminations were broken when she noticed her aunt wiping tears from her eyes. Whenever she saw her aunt thus, Ayaka could not but help console her. After all, it had been Noribuko who'd been there for her through the hardest times. She hugged her aunt, and looked her in the eyes, speaking from the heart, "Don't cry, please. You are also my mother, and my best friend, both in one. I love you, and will always be grateful for everything you've done for me."

            "Thank you, my dove." Noribuko held her hand. "You're the daughter I never had."

            Ayaka kissed her aunt on the cheek. By and by, her affection assuaged Noribuko, causing her sorrow to recede.

            "As you're sole caretaker I've been doing my best to make things better for you. So please understand it's not for any ambition of my own, or your uncle's, that I brought you to Shenobi; it's only because I care about you. I'm old Ayaka, whether I want to be or not. And we can never know what may happen one day to the next. The world is a dangerous place.” Noribuko shook her head incredulously. “Just look what Kage-maru did to Oku-no-kawa for opposing him. The daiymo were hunted down and the nomin marauded into the ground! And there are rumors of other fell things afoot.”

            It was true. Not only were treaties fracturing, there were reports of strange mists in the forests to the east, of savage akuma samurai, and murderous shadows in the night.

            "Gurinhiruzu doesn't command enough samurai to defend against the larger houses." Her aunt held up a finger. “But power and position can keep you safe. That's why we can no longer afford to be an independent prefecture. If the Shogun continues his campaign - we will need an alliance.”

            Ayaka tried to skirt the notion. "Why isn't it sufficient that we're still considered a southern realm?"

            "Our ties to Shenobi have become too loose. Thank your ancestors for that. Half the people in this city have never even heard of Kenkoya Castle. If you wed a southern daiymo however, Gurinhirzu would rest under wings of greater protection. Don't you see how important this is? If things worsen, our political standing has to be such that it will dissuade the Shogun from turning to us." Noribuko proceeded, as if walking a precarious path. "What more, since your uncle Raiju is lord of Ryoshu-kita, such a link through Gurinhiruzu could serve as a potential alliance between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms."

            Ayaka had heard this reasoning before; now that they were in Shenobi though, and she had witnessed the stark reality of what might happen, she keenly sensed the weight of what was at stake.

            "I understand," she said. "But doesn't it possibly pose a bigger risk to get this involved? Our kingdom is so small it is unimportant. If we enter into such alliances, might this not make us a target?"
            "It is a gamble," Noribuko answered. "And doing nothing would be far riskier. If we don't join the
Southern Kingdoms, we'll be a lone cub in the woods. The Shogun would devour us. No my dove, we're already involved. That is why you must be prepared to take things into your own hands."

            Ayaka fell silent. The future was a wilderness of uncertainty, and wherever she turned, there were no other discernible paths.

            "The Southern Kingdoms are strong. Shenobi will never fall to the Shogun." Her aunt nodded for emphasis. "The Kyojin-Kasai Phoenix samurai are the bravest and best trained in the entirety of Isodoro."

            While Ayaka pondered these matters, the two shared a brief silence; in it, the cold shadow of a doubt passed, touching her with its shiver.

            Noribuko sounded worn by a long day of toil, "I just want to know you'll be taken care of, and that your kingdom will endure, even after I'm gone."

            Ayaka remained pensive for a spell. She had never envisioned, much less wanted, such responsibilities to fall to her. Bringing Gurinhiruzu deeper amid the increasingly unstable balances that held sway troubled her. She must be calm and rational. The people in her kingdom depended on her - the samurai, and all the nomin; Noribuko did too, including the memories of her family. These things she must honor. Indeed, for these things Ayaka would risk anything.

            "I shall do whatever is necessary to safeguard Gurinhiruzu," she said. "And if that means finding a husband - don't worry - I promise I'll find someone who can help us."

            Ayaka did not give voice to the other motives behind her decision. Although there was no proof, she always believed it was Shogun Kage-maru who had ordered her father's assassination. Perhaps even the black sickness was his doing. Therefore Ayaka was willing to take actions that could thwart her enemies' plans. Despite her meditations on the path of the Seishin-yodo, a part of Ayaka wanted revenge.

            "Well, you're not going to meet a man if you hide out here among thickets and brambles,” said Noribuko.

            "I'll find someone, don't you worry. But whether or not it will be here in the city or among the daiymo that I find the man whom I should marry, I cannot say. What might seem the best choice at first is oft not what destiny has chosen.”

            Regardless of Ayaka's ambiguous words, her display of resolve had satisfied Noribuko.

            “So you’re saying you’ll at least try on the new kimono-dress?”

            “Yes Noribuko-chan. I'd be delighted to.”

            “Good. Harumi is at the inn, and Akemi should be coming by later. This evening I’ll be preparing kaiseki ryori - your favorite dish.”

            She smiled and took her aunt's arm in her own. Together they strolled leisurely across the outer courts, towards the palace. A pair of stern samurai bowed as they passed. The palace edifices towered hundreds of feet into the sapphire sky, in multiple levels of double-eaved roofs - decked with balconies and windows which commanded views of the cityscape, and the limitless forests beyond Shenobi’s walls. Looking back over her shoulder, Ayaka could not ward the presage that for all their strength, those walls and their defenses would not be able to stop what was coming, a tsunami of the likes Isodoro had never seen. Amid her fear the whisper of a breeze called, stirring her intuition that beyond those walls a destiny awaited, a challenge unknown, faraway from the city and this realm, faraway from everything she had ever known.

            Ayaka promised herself that no matter what happened in these coming months, or years, one day she would find the vision lost in her dreams. 



© 2016 Kuandio


Author's Note

Kuandio
This is the first chapter, not action packed by any means. There is action during the various points of the story, but it comes later. If you read these first chapters, I think you will find the beauty, intrigue, and mysterious and unique romance more than enough to carry you forward as layers of the story build with suspense and the wheels really get rolling.


My Review

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Featured Review

This is a beautifully created piece of writing. I love it. 'The Princess and The Gardens' is the perfect Chapter and starting to your book. This chapter makes me visualise Japan's beauty and sophistication when it comes to the past Japan in Shenobi. I wouldn't be surprised if you actually went to Japan, because from looking at this piece of writing, it seems so realistic that you have been there yourself, I'm seriously jealous of you if you have been to Japan. The only word I can think of when reading this chapter is 'beautiful', I hope your really considering to be a writer, and I hope this book, and also your other books become popular and published well in the future. Thank you for writing a wonderful chapter I enjoyed it. :)

Posted 5 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Hi, thanks for taking interest in this story! Unfortunately I know hardly anything speaking or writi.. read more
DaysOfSummer

5 Years Ago

I cant wait for you to continue writing more :)
You are really talented, especially from your .. read more
Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thanks again, I'll let u know as soon as its been revised, probably within a month at most



Reviews

Interesting first chapter - despite there being no actual action. I love some of the imagery that you invoke with very strong description. For example the gardens and the palace - I know I struggled for what seemed like an hour to explain the front of a mansion and achieved something far inferior to your description.

As a first chapter, it gets a bit confusing for me with all of the names thrown around. Different locations, factions, nouns for types of men or samurai-esque people etc. If you do publish this story I would encourage including a map and some other "supplementary" info such as a glossary. That way the reader can gain a greater understanding without you needing to ruin the flow by explaining things.

I also read a review that challenged you to improve your dialogue. I think your edits since then have proved successful! Congratulations on that! Writing the first draft is oft times less than half of the battle. A strong edit improves every facet of a story.

Posted 1 Year Ago


https://diigo.com/08qkhl

Focusing on just the opening paragraph, I'd cut a bit of the foreshadowing, or delay it, so that the vivid description can be sooner to hook in the audience.

Posted 3 Years Ago


After reading this chapter and its precursor, I've already a few points to note that I'm sure will carry on throughout the story. However, since I've not read it fully, I'll simply say my bit and scurry on, and probably regret something I say here as a result haha! Here they are, my Good and my Bad!

The GOOD: An intensely-vivid vocabulary trumps here, one which I rarely see in works like this and am always pleased to review. The wordplay is simply astonishing!

As well, the detail-work imparted is to be praised, and is surely notable amongst works by the author's peers.

Finally, forgetting the dialogue, this piece tells a very powerful story already, and is easily able to capture the right audience.

The BAD: Mainly, I had a couple of major with this chapter, and a couple of minor nitpicks. Naturally, I'll go through the major ones first.

Primarily, I wasn't too pleased with the dialogue (as I'd already mentioned this, I figured it would be best to begin here). I found it to be relatively stale and unbelievably unattractive, as the example below might insist:

Her aunt’s voice croaked unevenly, nearing the verge of tears, “I’m sorry things have been so difficult for you Ayaka. After your father was killed by the clan of the Black Hand, then your mother, your brother and dear sister died from the kuro-shi sickness, I’ve been with you everyday, your sole caretaker. I've done my best to make things better for you these past ten years. You must see, it’s not for any ambition of my own that I brought you to Shenobi; it's only because I care about you, and your future. I’m old Ayaka, whether I want to be or not. And we can never know what may happen one day to the next"
Noribuko shook her head at the woeful memory, "Just look at what Shogun Kage-waru did to the kingdom of Oku-no-kawa. The daiymo were hunted down by the satsujin assassins, and how the nomin villagers suffered at the hands of the Fumei-noyorou samurai! That's not all. There are other terrible things happening across the lands. The world is a dangerous place" she held up a finger, "But power and position can keep you safe. I know that Shenobi will never fall to the Shogun" Ch-1, Par.'s 27-28 full.

I'm usually an advocate against including vast expositional excerpts in dialogue, simply because it has a "breaking the Fourth Wall" kind of effect on the audience and forces the story to lose a good portion of its realism. When speaking, characters should never discuss events as if they're telling a third party what had happened; this is not how people converse. I've rewritten the above to sound more accurate, and though it may not be better in truth, it would probably be more logical and less boring. Generally, if you need to have characters talk, less is oftentimes more.

Her aunt’s voice croaked unevenly, nearing the verge of tears, “I’m sorry things have been so difficult for you Ayaka. After what has happened to your family, I. . . . I’ve done my best to make things better for you since then. You must see, it’s not for any ambition of my own that I brought you to Shenobi; it's only because I care about you, and your future. I’m old Ayaka, whether I want to be or not. And we can never know what may happen one day to the next."
Noribuko shook her head at the woeful memory. "The world is a dangerous place," she continued, holding up a finger, "but power and position can keep you safe. Shenobi will never fall to the Shogun."

This (more) apposite version is much more like what should be aspired to. All plot elements that an author has yet to disclose, I find, are easier written into "personal notes" that an author keeps to her- / himself. This way, they can be unveiled at the appropriate time (not when two characters hold emotionless conversation about sensitive events in their past as if only to an audience that doesn't know yet). Disclosing these things in a more decent manner is key, such as from a character who knows to one which does not. This could also be explained in, say, a work of literature itself within the story (for example, a poem detailing heroic deeds), or a flashback of a funerary setting. There are other options, but dialogue between two characters who already know something is commonly not the best way, and in this case is distracting and weak.

Second, the grammar. By grammar, however, I don't mean wordplay; as I'd stated above, I do feel that every term was used aptly. I refer to the punctuation (and in cases, the sentence structure), which was done exceedingly well in the beginning, but fell apart as the story progressed. Many instances of (especially) commas which should have been imparted were not, and I'll list a couple of examples:

FROM:

'“Here you are my dove” said the older woman, “I’ve looked through half the city for you. Ah, I should’ve known you’d be here”' Par. 9 full.

TO:

'“Here you are(,) my dove(,)” said the older woman[(,) to (.)] “I’ve looked through half the city for you. Ah, (but) I should’ve known you’d be here(.)”' Par. 9 full.

I'll likely impart a few words and omit a few to help the example along, and to assist with translating what I believe is being said in the story.

FROM:

'Ayaka pressed her other arm around Noribuko as if her aunt might float away at any moment, and never be able to return, “Don’t say that Noribuko chan”'

TO:

'Ayaka pressed her other arm around Noribuko (tightly,) as if her aunt might float away at any moment(.) “Don’t say that(,) Noribuko(-)chan(.)”'

Japanese honorifics tend to use a hyphen between the name and the suffix.

FROM:

Then Ayaka added, “But whether or not it will be here in the city, or among the daiymo of the south that I will find the man whom I should marry, I cannot say. Some things shouldn’t be rushed. What might seem the best choice at first is oft not what destiny has chosen” Par. 32 full.

TO:

(Without waiting for a response,) Ayaka (continued.) “(I cannot say if it will be here in the city, or amongst the daiymo of the south, that I find the man whom I should marry). Some things(, though,) shouldn’t be rushed. What might seem the best choice at first is oft not what destiny has chosen(.)” Par. 32 full.

Despite this being a great passage for Ayaka's character development, and so early in the story, it had a bit of a struggle with its opening sentence. I think the above is more appropriate to tell the same message, without the run-on nature of the previous.

There are several more examples of this, though I've only listed a few. Note that each of these involves dialogue in some manner, bringing us back to the root of the issue: the spoken word. I took the liberty of glancing ahead in the book to discover whether or not this misconception with dialogue has been solved, and as of 'The Journey North,' it has unfortunately not. Therefore, I feel that my words are useful even this far into the piece.

Dialogue should always be concluded with some form of punctuation, even if a comma or period, depending on how it is used and what follows. I can help with the specifics if the author desires, as aside from the dialogue and punctuation (both of which almost work hand-in-hand), this is an excellent read.

I promised a couple of nit-picks, and so to keep a long review going, here they are! Keep in mind that these are preferential, and nothing NEEDS to be changed, but I'd kick myself for not mentioning them regardless.

First, the use of vivid words is, in this story, its strongest suit. However, some words (such as 'palatial' and 'said') are overused to the point of annoyance. 'Palatial' could be replaced by words such as 'regal' or even 'magnificent,' and 'said' has a plethora of situational synonyms which could easily omit it almost completely from written work (as I find 'said' to be an incredibly weak verb).

Second, paragraph seven details the Shiroi-tenshi sakura flower, as one that grants miracles. I can foresee this as being vital to the story a ways down the road already, and would see it as more effectively drawn into the piece when it becomes relevant (not necessarily as it performs its act, but perhaps when introduced against the protagonist(s), for example). As it stands, I feel its only importance in the story is to foreshadow a blatant 'deus ex machina-' esque ending, which does detract in my opinion from the plot.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll conclude this before I continue haha! And so, in conclusion of this chapter, I deem this as one I've already come to like, and should the issues above be addressed, I'd even suggest it as one of the greater I've read online.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kuandio

4 Years Ago



Wow, you really know how to review! This has got to be one of the most helpful, constr.. read more
S. D. Forogar

4 Years Ago

I have no problem continuing to read this piece! As I've said, I really enjoy the eloquent writing a.. read more


The morning air had been cleansed by the rains the night before...good line, it really sets the mood for the opening of the chapter. The part about possible war breaking out adds a good sense of mystery that makes me wonder what is going to happen next. I think the last paragraph is very effective also. Good luck with it. It's a lot more work to write a novel than it is to write a poem.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kuandio

4 Years Ago

Thanks! It's nice to get a review out of the blue. I remember reading your stuff, but it's been awhi.. read more
Robert Strzalko

4 Years Ago

I know what you mean when you say keep the momentum going. Again, good luck with it. There is alwa.. read more
I loved the way you built up the introduction to the story, especially with the beautiful music in the background. The way you set up Ayaka's character drew me into her shoes and instantly developed a sense of appreciation for her composure and maturity (even if she wishes to stay a child). The setting was also quite well-done, with fluent and detailed descriptions of the almost-sacred gardens. I enjoyed the read and look forward to seeing more :)

Posted 5 Years Ago


Wind Chaser

5 Years Ago

I thought it was good to describe the setting in detail, but making it shorter would certainly have .. read more
Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thank you. It is very helpful to know about the descriptions. But no!!! Don't read the second book p.. read more
Wind Chaser

5 Years Ago

XD Okay I shall heed your warning
The story sounds pretty good so far, so I probably will get.. read more
This is very good and a compelling read. You have a gift for beautiful language and compelling drama. You should be proud.
I like your Protagonist; she appears fully formed and we come to care about her quickly.

Ganbare

Posted 5 Years Ago


Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thank you so much. I'm pretty confused about how much I should change this chapter at this point. Ab.. read more
David Jae

5 Years Ago

I like it as it is. It might benefit from a re-read and sharpening up here and there, but the story .. read more
Well, you were right about no action being in this chapter, which is to be expected for the first chapter for the book. I think that this chapter is setting the scene and developing the pot for further chapters. I am not entirely sure where this story is exactly going to end up, and I am curious to find out.

Posted 5 Years Ago


This is absolutely beautiful and I was so taken in by the amazing descriptions that I couldn't come up with any criticisms at all! It's not always bad if a story starts slowly. Although this chapter contains a lot of exposition, I think the prologue helped to create interest. You've also made a great beginning at describing the characters and making them likable for the reader.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thank you!!! I'm finding people either like this chapter quite a bit or have many issues with it. Yo.. read more
Alright, I am going to be harsh here, simply because I don't have time to sugar-coat everything. So this is aiming to be constructive; don't take it as a personal attack. Considering I am reviewing both your English composition, and your understanding of Japanese culture and names; this is time consuming. The main issue with your English is that there is too much describing, to the point of being unnatural and contrived. You have to use metaphors, adjectives, dialogue tage, and adverbs tactfully (in more or less that order) for the writing to flow naturally, to keep a good flow, and to not come across as contrived. Now on to the review in earnest...
I think it would be good to drop the 'beautiful' from the first sentence... not only because it is a bland adjective, but because it would be more powerful to convince the reader she is beautiful than to just tell them that she is. Perhaps add in a description of her eyes to match the gazing?
You have on multiple occasions remarked on the run-on nature of my sentences; although they are often not run-ons at all. You need to understand the difference between a comma, and a semi-colon. You are only using commas and periods, I think semi-colons and hyphens should see some use as well. When two independent clauses are closely related, I recommend bridging them together with a semi-colon. If there is a dependant clause which sort of hangs after a sentence (such as a person's impressions), use a hypen.
To you, my sentences seem to run on; but as a person who is accustomed to the use of semicolons (which I am using correctly in most cases; I have had people check this) your short sentences feel jarring. When two ideas feel so connected that they seem like they should flow together, but instead there is a long pause in the middle, it is, as I mentioned before, jarring. Of course, my whole approach to punctuation is very different from you; so I am not insisting that I am right on this matter (and that you must follow my advice); regardless, I do recommend studying up on semi-colons, and seeing where they can be used in your writing.
http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Semicolons.html
https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/1/44/
There are dozens of sections here where a semic0lon could be used, allowing better flow, and letting you remove some unneccessary transitional words.
Also, writing convention states that there are Two spaces between the end of a sentence, and the new one. It appears that you only have one.

Be careful with adjectives and adverbs (especially the second one), avoid multiple descriptions for something unless it is strictly neccessary. ex. smoothen sunlit balustrade, smoothen makes this sentence drags, and is an unnatural choice in adjective. For something which has no major impact on the story, it is best to limit your adjective choice.
melodic richness feels contrived to me, if either of these was used in conjunction with the air, it would be fine... but by omitting 'air' or a similar word, and just sticking both of them together, it makes the adjective choice seem contrived and forced. Having poetic beauty in our writing is a great idea, and makes for some stimulating imagery; but if we go overboard, it makes the whole story feel unnatural. It starts to feel less like an epic adventure or a dream, and more like someone is trying to 'make' it epic--there is a huge difference.
This is a point where a semicolon can come in use. If you go "sunlit balustrade; it was the day" then the sentence feels more natural... there is no need to talk about breathing melodic richness when you have all those following descriptions. If you really want to keep the whole melody thing, then weave it into the following sentence, "felt more alive==a warm melody throughout"
I am very skeptical of your name "Kage-waru", not only does it seem a bit over the top to name someone this... but waru isn't even an honorific. Here you have two Kun-yomi (native readings) being used in a compound word, for a name on top of that. Compounds would be using On-yomi (Sino-Japanese Reading). 悪影 would be pronounced akuei (negative influence) or Akukage (Bad Shadow). This name is a bit over the top, especially when used with "the shadow of". No person with this name would ever become a shogun. The Japanese were very superstitious, and no one would follow a leader with such a name. It would make more sense for him to have a name of strength. Anyway, the current name of Kage-waru sounds like you named him "I am the big bad, Shadow Bad" which sounds like a hillarious spin-off of sinbad... ;)
Your last sentence in the first paragraph goes overboard on the metaphors. If you use too many, then it makes it so that none of them stand out. Tactful usage is very important, since it allows them to stand out in contrast to normal adjectives... but too many and the writing becomes contrived, and none of the metaphors stand out. Choose one and keep it, and toss the other one, or find a way to combine themes. Also, it sounds better to say "the rumors of war to come"
Drop the "kawazuzakura" here... it is not only redundant since you add 'petal-pink' immediately after it, but it is also needlessly wordy. Consider your audience, only a handful of people will know Japanese, and those that do will know it better than you. Don't be so eager to use Japanese words since it will distract and annoy your English audience, and its inconsistency will do the same for Japanese speakers. Repeating something in two languages side by side is something you should never do; it is repetition, even if some people won't see it. It is the same way you said "Shadow of the Shadow-bad" lol
Again, another name combining kun-yomi, making me cring. "Sora-hana" not only does the name leave nothing to the imagination, but it is using the wrong pronounciations.
First of all, sora 空 means sky, but it can also mean emptiness... and is quite a literal word for the idea of sky. It is used in a stand-alone form, but not really used in compounds as much as its counterpart Ten 天 meaning 'the heavens'. And while hana may be used for flower in a standalone form, in a compound name it would usually be pronounced as ka (as in Ayaka, ironically enough). In somecases Hana 'could' be used, but it would be uncommon, especially in the time period you have here. So Tenka would be the most likely name. The interesting about this name (Heavenly Petals) 天花, is that it ALSO means Snow, and the is pronounced the same way as 天下 a word for 'the whole world, and one who governs it'
Ummm, I am a bit concerned about the 'Shenobi' word, 'Sh' is not a sound combination in Japanese. Shen is more a chinese sound, and I honestly cannot see a Japanese location being named this.
Again, you way overdo the descriptions, and many of them are redundant. I would completely remove 'mesmerized, and" if nothing else, because permeated her so profoundly is already too much, and having mesmerized just makes this sentence absurd. Be wary of adverbs, especially telling ones such as 'profoundly', it makes this so over-the-top, that the sentence is difficult to take serious. Also, you say 'this breadth', this feels a bit much.
"impeccably swept white-wash pebble paths" Again, keep your adjectives for simple objects which will not have an impact on the story. There is no need for this much description of a path; unless it is the philosophers path or some other such nonsense.
The rest of this paragraph is honestly... a disaster. You are trying to describe way too many things, the reader will completely lose interest at this point. If they wanted to read a list of this length, they would write a grocery list. If you are going to have all this stuff, then you need to present it more gradually, and in a more tasteful manner.
Furthermore, Hummingbirds only live in the Americas (thus why Pocahontas had one in the movie). There are no hummingbirds living in the wilds of Japan.
Again, you have too many descriptions which are too briefly touched upon. When describing such a complex image listing off them while throwing in the occasional adjective is not enough. Limit yourself... And again, black kuromatsu... drop the Japanese words here, they are unneccessary, redundant (using black to describe kuromatsu), and distracting.
espied is not a good word choice; there is no need to use a complex word when their is a simpler verb available. ex. utilize vs. use. Only in certain circumstances should utilize be used. In this case, espied is not the right choice.
As an interesting note, the day before Spring begins is called Setsubun in Japanese, and it on the 3rd of February. There is something known as the Sakurazensen, (the Cherry Blossom Front) since blossoms start blooming in the south in mid March, and make their way north into April. In the capital areas of Japan, the blossoms would be coming out in April, about two months after when this 'scene' is taking place. So the description of how the Sakura would be blooming soon isn't quite right.
Yet again, be wary of using more than one adjective to describe something unless it is strictly neccessary.
Shiroi-tenshi is also wrong, but not by much... it should be Shirotenshi, although this does sound a tad bit cheesy... :P Notice how earlier I mentioned that "Heavenly Blossoms" can refer to Snow? Well, the whole "White Angelic Host" has the same vibe, so the description of snow was interesting.
Note that words such as sushi and sakura, when combined into the second part of a compound word, the 's' becomes a 'z', so shiroi sakrura should actually be shirozakura.
Your last sentence in this paragraph is a major run on sentence; learn about semicolons, and use them to properly punctuate this sentence.
I don't really know what you intend with the name Noribuko... it doesn't sound right. Perhaps Noriko?
Since the aunt is older, I am thinking that it would make more sense for her to say 'alright' instead of 'OK'.
I have no idea what Sasei is supposed to be... What are you trying to have the festival be about?
Noribuko-chan... chan does not seem the right honorific to address your aunt, or someone older than you... especially as a princess. Honestly, I would drop the chan altogether, it is more natural and intimate that way.
The whole sentence about her family dying is very unnatural, there are too many ands, too many commas, and I think a simple "passed away" in regards to an unnamed illness seems more natural. Rework the syntax here, and throw in some other punctuation when neccessary.
And again... Oku-no-kawa? There is no subtlety in these names, the Japanese don't name everything so literally, they don't call someone "Brother Bear" or "Man who hunts elk" or some indian nonsense. They name things with words to give impressions... and Oku-no-kawa just seems absurd for a kingdom name... : And I don't see a need for you to name the specific group of Samurai... or the villagers. Seriously, consider your audience; only be using foreign words when they are neccessary.
"Ayaka’s display of steadfastness and affection had assuaged Noribuko, causing her sorrow to recede to the subterranean recesses of the spirit. Then Noribuko said, “So you’re saying you’ll try on those new rakuen kimonos?” This whole paragraph is filled with unnatural metaphors, and not creative ones... just overdone. Think more about your word choice, not every action is meant to be spun in a poetic fashion. If you do this, when you do use a poetic tongue, it won't stand out. Don't waste it to drivel on in unneccessary areas.
Kaiseki-ryori is not a dish, it is a form of presentation of a meal. This would be like, "I am making a four-course meal, your favourite dish" It doesn't make a lick of sense. You need to actually have a dish, not a style of meal. If it ends with ryori, it means 'style of cuisine'.

Posted 5 Years Ago


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Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thank you for your incredibly in-depth review. I think it might be longer than the story itself.
read more

Very poetic style.

You're clever in the way you inform readers about various types of Japanese trees and plants. I do not recognize most of those names, but the context you created told me they were plants. JK Rowling has a similar talent, where she uses vocabulary many readers are apt to be unfamiliar with but the context offers clues about them. There were a couple of sentences that overwhelmed me with vocabulary overload, and I'm normally quite good at uncommon words (I sometimes overload readers myself, I've been told) but there's only a few of that type- most of the time, you're awesome at conveying the definition with context clues.

The ones that overloaded me:
1. The daiymo were hunted, and how the nomin villagers suffered at the hands of the Fumei-noyorou samurai! (I'm guessing because I'm not that great with Japanese terms. A HUGE flaw in the US education system, at least on the East Coast where I'm from, is focusing WAY overmuch on the United States with an occasional shift to European history- Asian, African and Australian history are woefully neglected)
2. The blue breeze rippled the kawazuzakura petal-pink kimono around her slender, sensuous frame.
3. Through the overlapping boughs that swayed and murmured, Ayaka espied bobbing and ebbing slivers of a large shimmering pond surrounded by sentinels of water oak and reverential weeping willows.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kuandio

5 Years Ago

Thank you for your in depth review! I can tell you really paid attention to the chapter
Honest.. read more

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Added on November 3, 2013
Last Updated on July 21, 2016
Tags: Asian, fantasy, romance, love, epic, journey, horror, spiritual, adventure, ancient, action, samurai, ninjas, Japan

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