TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7

Swelling of a storm

When sorrow gives way to hope

Race against the dark

 

“Gen ventured far and wide in search of passage to the realms beyond, for only there would he find the aid he sought. By chance, he stumbled upon a white gate that led him to the depths of the world, to the Beneath itself. There he crossed the dark river to the farther shore, and there he saw Abidokuja, the HellSerpent, the God of Death. As great and perilous and awe-inspiring as the mountain that imprisoned it, the enormous ebon viper awoke from its slumber. Its blazing white eyes beheld an unbelievable sight: a mortal samurai, as lowly before it as an ant before a sentient, who now stood where no living thing had ever dared tread. Unafraid, Gen announced his name and intentions in the sacred manner, unsheathed his sword, and challenged the Serpent to a duel.

“Such a duel had never been fought before, and never would be again. One lone mortal, with nothing but his sword and armor, against a God a hundred times his size, wielding power unimaginable. How an ordinary sword managed to cut the Serpent’s black iron hide even once, none shall ever know. The weapon did not survive Gen’s strike; the Serpent’s blood was hot and red as flame, and melted the steel to slag. Yet still Gen fought on, defiant…

“Of course Gen fell, as all must fall before death, but in the aftermath, the Death God looked upon the battered samurai who dared challenge it, and it found itself amused by his audacity. ‘Take up this fang shed from my mouth as proof,’ it said, pushing forward a venomous tooth half as large as Gen himself, torn loose during the battle. It smiled… ‘As proof that you have battled and survived. In times to come, when stand you here again, a favorable judgment shall I give.’”

“So Gen was allowed to leave the Beneath, empowered and emboldened. Once he returned to the mortal world, he forged the Serpent’s fang into a new sword, a terrible weapon with a sawblade’s edge. That done, he had only to wait for his chance. It came on one dread autumn night, when under cloak of darkness, Gen stole Hayaoh’s beloved Shizuka away…”

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

 

In the fading afternoon light, all three of them stared at the open scroll, pinned to the floor of Haven Grove with the stem of a sprig of flowers… pale pink sweet pea, with rounded petals curled up at the edges.

Rowan sat in the overstuffed armchair he had donated to Hanami months earlier. It was a favorite chair of his and he had been sorry to see it go, but now it brought him no comfort, none at all. His elbows sat on the armrests, his hands folded in front of his mouth, which was a grim, hard line.

Zero stood so still that one might mistake him for a statue. The words written on the scroll ate away at his insides like acid. He was a fool, an utter fool not to see it before. When Hanami came to him, he had been so distracted by his own sorrow that he failed to notice hers. The kiss only further distracted him, taking up space in a mind already far too crowded. And now…

Only Faun made any sound. She sat in her favorite spot on the couch, head in her hands, sobbing intermittently. Her eyes were bloodshot, raw and puffy with tears. It took ten minutes of Rowan’s pleading and a bucket full of cold water to rouse her from her stupor. At first, she took his words of alarm as some kind of bizarre, alcoholic hallucination. Only when Rowan carried her to Haven Grove and she saw the scroll for herself did realization and guilt come crashing down upon her. “It’s my fault,” she said again. Her voice was husky and broken, absent of her usual brash confidence. “It’s my fault. I was so excited to finally drink with her, I never even thought about why. I’m such an idiot! I should have stopped her, I should have said something! She’s my best friend, I should have known… but I’m just a stinking drunk, a worthless, stinking drunk! Oh Gods…” Her hand flew to her mouth as she heaved.

Without a word, Rowan slid the chamber pot to her again. Any other time, he might have made a sharp remark about the consequences of overindulgence. Not now.

Zero’s claws dug into his palms. He was the first to arrive, so he was first to read the scroll, Hanami’s confession. He alone saw the final few lines, written only to him, an outpouring of her true feelings. He begged the others not to look. “This is all wrong,” he said, partly to himself. “This is all wrong. Why didn’t she say anything before now? Why didn’t she trust us?”

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TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 6 [Reupload]

Chapter 6

Path of many years

Winding from farm to forest

This is her story

“The maiden’s name was Shizuka. From that night on, she was a constant sight by Hayaoh’s side. Those who knew of him saw a great change come over the great warrior… gone were his days of fury and bloodlust, gone was the merciless aura that trailed him like clouds. His heart of stone had cracked in two.

“Theirs was more than a simple courtship turned romance turned love. ‘Love’ was hardly a sufficient word, for the two complemented and completed each other. As Shizuka filled the emptiness inside Hayaoh’s heart with compassion, so Hayaoh brought out the warrior’s spirit in Shizuka, teaching her the sacred virtues of the samurai. She tempered his anger, and he brought out her courage. He showed her how to fight, she showed him how to make peace. It was a perfect union, with each half enhancing the other to become greater than the whole. In time, the legend of Hayaoh became the legends of Hayaoh and Shizuka… the world watched in awe.

“Yet this was not the end of their troubles. When they fought, as all who are in love must fight, their passion shook the earth and rattled the sky, bringing forth rains of bitter tears. Only when they reconciled would the sun shine again.

“And as the years passed, one grew to resent this passion, this bond between them. He was a samurai as cold and hard as Hayao’s heart of stone had once been. His name was Gen, and for many hours, Gen would sit and think his dark thoughts: that Hayaoh had come to disgrace the warrior’s code, becoming a pale shadow of what he was before. It was his mate’s fault, he thought. Something must be done, he thought…”

 

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

 

She is born on a farm in mid-autumn, in a small brick house within the Jiburi Grasslands. The house is bordered by rows of green blessed with vegetables and fruits in a dozen varieties, and flowers in countless colors.

It is a humble life, a simple life. The farm makes money, but not very much. She learns to tend the fields at a young age. Her parents teach her the Edicts of the Heavens and how to read and write, for they do not have the money to send her to formal school or hire a tutor. She reads whenever she can, whatever she can. Sometimes she hopes for a younger brother or sister to play with, but one never comes.

Years pass. Her life is quiet and sometimes lonely, but pleasant.

As she grows, her parents tell her again and again the importance of the Edicts, the sacred directives given by Lady Terra, the Goddess of Life herself. She comes to know them all by heart. The Edicts are good, the Edicts are absolute. How could anything from the Goddess be anything but?

She spends many days gazing out of her bedroom window, imagining the wider world beyond the seemingly endless fields of green. She suspects she will never see that world, that the farm will keep her here for the rest of her life, as it has kept her parents and grandparents before her. Sometimes she sorrows to think this, but the sorrow always passes quickly. It is good work, important work that she and her parents do. They plant the seeds and till the soil, and the Goddess gives them food and flowers. The food feeds the people, the flowers make them happy. Happiness brings enough money to plant more seeds, and the cycle goes on.

Sometimes she thinks that the cycle will continue without end.

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