Shortly after Kenta freed a trapped crane from a snare, a mysterious woman appeared at his home. Beautiful Yukiko insists on becoming his wife and though he knows he can’t afford to marry, he also cannot resist the temptation to claim her as his own. It isn’t long before he finds himself falling in love with the strange young woman, even though she refuses to share any information about her past.
Yukiko has good reason to keep her secrets. If Kenta ever discovers the truth about her identity, it could destroy their chance at happiness and force them apart forever…
The Crane Wife is a fantasy romance based on the Japanese folktale “Tsuru Nyobo.”
Kenta sank through the thin crust on the surface of the snow. Here, under the trees, some of the drifts were nearly as tall as he was. Though it meant a less direct route home, he turned his steps toward the frozen pond. The ice should be thick enough now to bear his weight, and it would take much less effort than floundering through the forest.
The heavy load on his shoulders did not help with his balance, but he’d had a lot of practice in carrying similar burdens. It was good quality wood from seven-year old sawtooth oak trees. They were the perfect size for his purpose and would burn well even with the bark left on, making the sort of charcoal that would fetch the best price. Three more days like this, and he would have enough to fill his kiln.
The snow was particularly wet and heavy today, soaking straight through his double layer of tabi. He could hardly feel his feet. He tried to focus his thoughts on his small home. Old, but a sturdy shelter against the winter wind. He thought about the warm fire he would build and the rice and barley gruel he would have for his supper.
His stomach growled, yet he knew that his hunger would be only partly satisfied. He craved more than what he had. Miso soup, in particular, would do a much better job of warming him after his long day, but he did not have much of the fermented soybean paste left from his last purchase. He needed to be careful with it, until he could take another load of charcoal to the village.
Though he might not buy more, even then. He needed straw to repair his roof, among other things. Sometimes, it seemed that his expenses grew quicker with every passing day, no matter how cautious he tried to be.
Not for the first time, he wished he had a wife waiting for him as well. A warm, soft body pressed against his at night would make all memories of working through the freezing weather fade away in short order.
But marriage was another thing he would just have to learn to do without. The income from his charcoal-making was barely enough to support himself. No decent family would consider him as a potential husband for their daughter.
The unmistakable sounds of a struggle—accompanied by a high, thin cry—came from the reeds. Kenta dropped his bundle and rushed forward.
A crane thrashed among the frozen vegetation. One of its long, thin legs trapped by a snare. Some careless hunter had never retrieved his trap after the end of the autumn duck migration. Foolish. So very foolish.