A short story about Yoshika Miyako’s past.
Since this is only fiction, please note that nothing about her past I’ve written is canon; it’s only known that she must have liked poems a lot, since she is seen mumbling some to herself while being a jiangshi.
The story plays in post-war Japan in late autumn and was influenced by this song
If you like these kind of stories, feel free to leave a comment to let me know. I also take writing requests (although I suppose I won’t get many since most people don’t regard writing as very highly).
Note: The story contains suicide mention. If you’re sensible to that topic, please read with caution.
„Welcome home Yoshika, how was school? It must be tough to return after such a long break.” Her mum was standing in the doorway of her room, hands folded neatly in front of her chest. There was a forced smile on her face.
Yoshika just glanced at her from the corner of her eye and returned to reading her book. It was a notebook with mostly blank sheets, however there were some pages filled with a messy handwriting. Her poems were written in there and she pondered about the newest one. She wasn’t quite content with how it turned out and wanted to fix it. Yet, her mother thought it was reasonable to burst into her room and disturb her by acting like a parent who is interested in their child.
She was not.
She waited a few more seconds, but Yoshika had taken a sheet of paper and started writing the poem anew. It was about a girl that died as a child and whose grave was beneath a cherry tree; she was woken again after several years to find the world to be completely different than how she remembered. Only the cherry tree has remained the same. When I die, thought Yoshika, I’d like to be buried under one too.
„Dinner will be ready in a few minutes“, said her mother in a cold voice and turned around.
“I understand”, said Yoshika and laid down the pencil and the piece of paper. The words were right there in her head, but they refused to come out. It’s as if they were too valuable to be written down. Or it might only be a writer’s block.
The young girl followed her mother to the dining table, which was already laid. It was only Yoshika and her mother. She said down on her stool while her mother returned to the kitchen to finish their meal. Yoshika, however, stared to the ceiling and tried to sort her thoughts to be able to write them down. It was more of a feeling though. That’s why it was hard for her to bring it to paper.
„Today’s dinner is ochazuke*“, said her mother as she placed a steaming bowl in front of her daughter. She sat down on the opposite side of the table and put her hands together in a prayer. “Itadakimasu”, she said, hoping Yoshika would reply. All she did was nod absent-mindedly though. Thus, her mother began to eat in silence.
Yoshika flinched a bit and noticed the bowl in front of her. She began to eat as well, without any dinner prayers. She thought it to be a stupid tradition, announcing to eat. Why would somebody care about that after all? Eating is only natural, and one should eat if they feel like it. It was nobody’s business if she ate or not.
“We’ve been having ochazuke a lot lately”, Yoshika said as she finished her meal.
“It’s cheap”, replied her mother and put her bowl back on the table. “You know that we don’t have much money.”
Yoshika nodded and folded her hands in her lap. “Because father died in war.”
Her mother looked up to her. “Didn’t we agree not to talk about your father?”, she asked sharply. “The past is in the past. The future is what we should focus at.”
Yoshika shook her head. “Not quite. The present is what counts, if I were to be exact. Influenced by the past, we take action to influence the future. Yet, we cannot influence everything we would like to. That is the tragedy of life, I would say.” She gathered the dishes and brought them to the kitchen to clean. Although she didn’t quite like her mother, she was dutiful.
She heard her mother take a deep breath. “Why do you always act as if you would know everything better than me?” She sounded angry, but tried her best to keep her composure. Yoshika, however, knew she wouldn’t be able to keep it up any longer.
“It would be better if we stopped the conversation at this point”, Yoshika suggested. “You might have the illusion we would be a happy family, but that is not the case.” She put the bowls back in the shelf. “I would like to go back to my room.”
Her mother put her hands on the table and stared at the wall. “You will stay here until we discussed the matter. I deserve to know why you don’t want to talk to me anymore.”
Yoshika sighed and brushed her short, black hair behind her ears. “You are not even my mother. I used to talk to you because of father. Now that he is gone, I do not see any need to do so anymore”, she replied honestly. If there were still emotions left in her body, she would start to feel annoyed. However, this so-called family had gradually sucked all life out of her body. There wasn’t really anything left she cared about. If her step-mother started to assault her, so be it. But if she knew Yoshika skipped school, she would burn her books filled with poetry. Thus, she rather kept quiet about it.
“I helped your father raise you and be there for you. I gave you shelter, food and a warm bed to sleep in. I make sure you get the education you deserve. Yet you dare to claim I were not your mother just because we are not related by blood?” She almost spit these words out. Yoshika could see the veins in her step-mothers hands because she clutched them so hardly.
“There is no use talking about it”, said Yoshika and walked past her. “I will go to my room now. You do not understand my feelings, so I would prefer to not talk about them. I know I do not support you, but neither do you. None of us has any right to complain. That is everything I have to say about this matter.”
Her step-mother grasped her wrist as she tried to walk past her. Her grip was painfully tight. “Listen. I know very well you do not go to school. That is up to you. But for you to lie into my face… I’m deeply ashamed of you.”
Yoshika tried to break free, but it was in vain. “I never said I would go to school, so I do not think I lied about anything.” She started to feel a bit anxious after all. Her emotions still seem to linger inside of her, somewhere. “Your claims are based on thin air. You do not have any proof.”
“I stalk you”, she said without batting an eye. “I don’t trust you. With a reason, it seems.”
“Let me go”, Yoshika said, starting to become nervous. But her step-mother’s grip only tightened even more.
“I want you to leave now. I don’t care where you go to or what you do as long as you never set foot into my house ever again.” She pulled Yoshika close to her and stared into her eyes. She smelled like alcohol. Yoshika started to panic now. Her step-mother was especially bad when she was drunk. It would be best to leave now. Only God knows what she’s capable of doing when she can’t think straight. But Yoshika had set her mind anyways already. “If you do, I will kill you. Nobody even remembers you anymore. Nobody would miss you. We both know that.”
Yoshika swallowed hardly and nodded frantically. “I swear I will not come back”, she said with a shaking voice.
The woman let go of her wrist and pushed her away. “Then leave. You have one minute to be gone, otherwise you’ll die in the same house you were born in. And don’t think I’ll make the effort to bury you. I’ll just throw you on the street and let the strays eat your corpse.”
Yoshika dashed off into her room and threw her most favorite poetry books in a shoulder bag. She was about to leave, when she paused. There was something she had kept secret, in case there was no future left for her to influence. She seems to be at that point now.
She hurried back to her bed and took a small metal box out from under her mattress. She has always been glad to have a western-styled bed and not a futon like most other people. Now, she would never sleep in a bed again it seems.
While she put the metal box into the bag to her books, she made her way to the front door and rushed out. Only now she noticed it was raining and there was thunder in the distance. She has always loved the rain, but now she didn’t care about it. She had a place she wanted to go, a special place. If she had no future, then she at least wanted to choose how her “now” ended. She held the bag closely to her chest.
It took her a while to find the right way in this complete darkness, only the lightning guiding her way, but eventually she found it. It was the village’s cemetery, the same cemetery her mother’s grave was at.
She lied under the cherry blossom tree.
I’m sure my mother would be grateful to have me with her, Yoshika thought. She has always been a little controlling, but she never dared to do anything that would harm her child. Her mother was a narcissistic person, but her she made sure it wouldn’t wrong her daughter. Yes, she cared. Yoshika hoped an afterlife exists so to be able to be with her mother again.
She arrived at her mother’s grave and kneeled down. “Mother”, she greeted her. “It’s time for me, mother.” Yoshika took out the metal box from her bag and opened the lid. “I’m sorry that I can’t write down the poem I made for you. I tried to, but it doesn’t sound right. There’s no way I can describe that feeling. Well… I never experienced how it’s like to die and be reborn, and I don’t know if that’s even possible, but I really hope so… I really want to try again someday.”
Of course her mother didn’t reply. A corpse can’t talk, after all.
Yoshika was only wearing a sleeveless shirt, so she was freezing. It was autumn already, so it were merely a few degrees outside. The rain didn’t help much either to keep her warm. But it will at least make things easier.
She took out one of the blades she had kept in the metal box for the time she wanted to die. Her time has come now, after all.
She put the blade to her wrist and wanted to push it in, but she decided against it and lifted it to her throat. It will go faster this way.
Yoshika closed her eyes and let the rain drench her clothes. Then she took a deep breath and kept it in for a while. When I breathe out, I’ll slice it open, Yoshika thought. Slowly, she let out her breath.
Without hesitating any further, she pushed the blade in an sliced it through.
The next thing she remembers is her nails gouging out the ground beneath her, as she frantically tries to get air into her lungs. She wanted to roll onto her side and cough, but her body felt extremely stiff. Her memories were still there the first second, but slowly they faded. As if they were merely a dream.
She looked around herself, the eyes were everything she could move properly, but couldn’t see anyone. She could only see dark brown and red leaves high up. A tree, probably. One of them shook and fluttered down onto her face. Now she couldn’t see at all anymore, but somehow she didn’t care much. She couldn’t feel anything and her thoughts didn’t last for more than a second. Whatever, she thought. This isn’t that bad.
“Good morning, my beloved”, a voice whispered in her ear. She didn’t know who the voice belongs to, but the way the person spoke reminded her of someone dear. Her heart – although she doesn’t have an intact one anymore – jumped. “Finally I found someone capable of serving me. You may move now.”
She sat up slowly, her arms remained stiffly pointed forwards though. “Who is speaking?”, she asked curiously. “You seem familiar.”
“I’m your master, my beloved”, the woman the voice belonged to chuckled. “I’m known as Kaku Seiga. And your tombstone says…” The women took a glance at the stone adorning the place that was supposedly her grave. “Miyako Yoshika. I’m pleased to have met you. If you may follow me now.”
She got up and went away without looking if Yoshika followed or not. She didn’t have to do so, because an invisible bond was woven between them. Seiga knew exactly where her underling was, and what she was doing.
This might not be so bad, Yoshika thought. The world appears to have changed a lot, though.
- The title “Miyako” refers to Yoshika’s family name as well as the Japanese word for “capital”.
- “Ochazuke” is a Japanese dish that contains cooked rice, vegetables and salmon with black or brown tea poured over it. You can exchange the salmon with other things though.