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Barmy Bunny's Randomness
Whatever pops into my head. It could be a bit of story, or just a few words, so be warned.
Love Against Tradition
A story I wrote for English. I loved the beginning, but was disappointed with the ending. I'll eventually change it.
It was the early spring of 1691 before the cherry blossomed, and the nights still held the bite of winter while the days were mild. Japan basked in the peace and prosperity brought by its self-imposed isolation. The air was filled with the soft mantra of praying monks, and the cries of watchmen sounding the hour outside the wall. Leaves rustled, stirred by an almost non-existent breeze, and high above the stars glinted gleefully, waiting for the turmoil to begin.
A scream echoed out over the temple grounds, smothering the cicadas’ song and causing the monks to forget their prayers. She paused to take a breath, and then continued shriller than before. Several minutes earlier Asahina Yakami had been sitting in her room, reading the Tale of Genji by candlelight, while her maid slept close by. She’d been so engrossed; she hadn’t heard the screen slide open, and someone step into the room.
She was grabbed roughly from behind. She struggled but couldn’t escape, only managing to make her captor laugh. It was a deep, guttural laugh which made her shiver. She knew that laugh.
It belonged to the man her father intended her to marry. Asahina Saburo had claimed he was a merchant, which would have been bad enough, except he was obviously a bandit. He was rude and brash, he drank far too much sake, and his broken nose was testament to many a violent fight. He was also undeniably cruel, to the servants; to the men he’d brought, even to his horse. It had made her scared for their married life.
Now she was terrified that her life wouldn’t last much longer. She took a deep breath, ready to scream, when a huge grubby hand covered her mouth.
“Now, now my pretty, no need to panic,” he whispered mockingly, his hot breath on her neck. “I’m not going to hurt you. We’re just going to have a little fun.”
He continued to restrain her with one arm, his grimy hand still over her mouth. His other hand traced her curves. In sheer terror she bit at the hand, scratched every bit of bare skin with manicured nails, tearing them from her fingers, and stamped on his feet, kicking out as much as her kimono allowed. She was soon exhausted and he still hadn’t let go.
Taking a knife better suited for hacking through bone, he sliced through her obi, letting it slide to the floor.
“I’m going to enjoy thi…” His sentence gurgled to a halt. Warm liquid splattered onto the back of her neck. Behind her, his body stiffened and toppled over, trapping her beneath it. Her breath was knocked from her, preventing her from screaming. Squirming, she tried to free herself from the weight on top of her. She couldn’t breathe. She was about to give up, when a gloved hand reached down. Grasping it, she was dragged from beneath his bulk, and pulled upright. There she stood, panting and shaking, while her saviour supported her.
Once she’d recovered, wobbling back to her feet, she was fixed with a grey stare surrounded by black cloth. Something about his gaze made her forget years of etiquette lessons, and want to talk like she had to her brother, when they were younger and in private. With nothing to keep it closed, her kimono slipped, revealing her nightdress beneath. He blinked and looked away, freeing her from his hypnotic gaze.
Blushing deeply, she clasped it around her neck. “Thank you,” she said, watching her feet.
“You’re welcome.” She looked up, surprised by his answer. She’d expected a gruff, unfriendly voice, instead it sounded like a stream in early summer. The eyes crinkled into a smile.
She was held speechless by those eyes, until she remembered the body behind her. “Please go, I’ve got to scream, and I’d prefer you not to be here when my father arrives.”
He laughed, bowing, and headed towards the window. “I’ll leave you in peace.”
“But the door’s over there.” she said, pointing over her shoulder.
“I’m leaving the same way I came in.” he said, sitting on the sill. “But I’m sure it won’t be the last time we meet…Asahina Yakami.” With that, he twisted out.
“Wait,” she called, rushing to the window. “If you know who I am,” she leant out, but couldn’t see him anywhere, “who are you?”
About to turn back into the room, a voice spoke near her ear, “I’m Takeru.” Looking up, she watched his form disappear over the roof.
She stepped away from the window, a tiny, contented smile on her lips. Moving closer to the corpse, its blood pooling across the floor, she remembered the terror she’d felt when he’d grabbed her, and screamed. She paused briefly, took a deep breath, and screamed again, higher than before. She ran out of breath, just as the door was yanked open and her father ran in.
“Papa,” she cried, dashing over to him. She buried her face in his clothes, sobbing. “Papa, it…it was awful. He…he tried to…to…” The fact that he’d almost succeeded finally caught up with her, and she broke down, crying inconsolably.
“Lord Asahina,” someone spoke, voice quiet and old but still commanding.
Turning, he found the abbot watching and bowed deeply, murmuring, “Daishi.” Even in her slightly shocked state Yakami managed a respectful bow. The abbot merely nodded in recognition, before focusing on Yakami. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to tell us what happened.”
Nodding meekly, she haltingly recounted the horrific event, except for her conversation with Takeru, between sobs and tears.
When she’d finished, the abbot asked, “Did you happen to see the killer?” She shook her head so he turned to her father. “We will have to move your daughter to another room, while this one is cleansed.” Lord Asahina nodded agreement. “However, I think it would be best if your daughter bathed, before returning to bed, in order to remove the blood from her hair and neck.”
“Of course,” he said, “but…”
The abbot interrupted, “Although, if the assassin wanted to kill her he’d have done so already, I will accompany her to the bath house and put a guard outside.” He strolled away before anyone could object.
After a few seconds Yakami hurried to catch up, almost tripping over the loose ends of her kimono. They wandered down frescoed corridors and out into the gardens, where they walked through skeletal trees and shrines to the dead. Upon nearing her mother’s shrine she veered off, and knelt before it in the damp grass.
“Thank-you,” she murmured, “Thank-you for sending Takeru to save me. You would never have expected me to marry that brute in the first place.” She took the netsuke from her tie and placed it in the shrine. It was a particularly fine one carved from ivory, into the semblance of a cherry bloom exact to the finest detail. “I miss you.” Standing up, she wiped a single tear from her eye and caught up with the abbot.
“Do not speak; as I know this to be true, but you were not truthful abut having seen the murderer.” She hung her head, ashamed. “However, your reasons for the deception were mainly honourable.” She looked at the faint smile he wore and smiled weakly.
They stopped outside the bath house. “A hot bath awaits you inside,” he told her. She stepped towards the door but a hand held her back. “Read this when you get out and contemplate its meaning.” He passed her a tattered scrap of paper and walked away. She strode indoors.
Steam filled the room. Slipping out of her outdoor shoes, she pulled on the waiting slippers and stepped up onto the wooden floor. Sliding over the slippery surface, she noticed the carefully laid out cloths, and the shallow dish for scooping up water, placed on the edge of the deep bath. She put the note out of reach of any possible splashes, piling her clothes on top of it, and sat down on the stool in front of the bath. After splashing water over herself, scrubbing all over with soap and rinsing off again, she eased herself into the steaming water and soaked until her skin was wrinkled and white. She left the water reluctantly, and dried off.
Slowly redressing, she tied her obi with the ease of many hours practice. The paper watched her accusingly and she approached it with caution. She unfolded it with the utmost care, terrified it might rip, and read the hastily penned words. It was a simple haiku.
A forbidden Love,
Youth’s grand trap and greatest joy,
Causes the most pain.
She read it several times, trying to guess why the abbot had given it to her, until she tucked it into her obi.
Yakami, understandably, slept late, and, because the abbot told her father it was appropriate, spent the day in prayer. They left the next day to take the long journey home. In the temple garden of Dainichiji, the cherry blossom began to open.
A year passed. Once again it was early spring and the cherry tree had blossomed into an array of pinks and whites. Yakami was on yet another long journey, this time to Matsuyama. Asahina Saburo had quickly and efficiently arranged another marriage to a wealthy merchant, who she was going to meet for the first time. She used this as an excuse to stop at every shrine they passed and pray to Aizen-Myoo, although it wasn’t for her new groom. She prayed to the god of love for someone else.
All through the stormy summer and bitter winter she had thought about the poem, and the warning the abbot had tried to give her, rereading it late into the night. When she finally slept she dreamt of grey eyes, crinkled into a smile.
Horses’ hooves clacked over the cobbles as they rode through the town. Of course, she didn’t ride. She wasn’t allowed to ride. She had to be carried in a litter. She wasn’t even meant to look out, although she did.
“Come away,” whined her maid, “Your beautiful pale skin will tan.”
“Of course it won’t,” she scolded, glaring at the maid, “I just want to look.” She tweaked the curtain slightly wider and gazed out at the town.
People lined the streets of wooden houses and peered out of upper storey windows, watching the convoy with interest. However everyone’s focus was on her father, and the soldiers, riding at the front, no one paid any attention to the litter. This didn’t bother her though as it meant no one would catch her peeking out the window.
Then, something caught her eye, a broad straw hat, better suited for the rain, in a realm of bare heads and shawls. Suddenly it looked up, staring at her. Between the brim, and a scarf pulled up to his nose, was a pair of familiar crinkled grey eyes, smiling. She smiled back blushing, and pulled the curtain closed. The rest of the journey was dull and uneventful, and she dosed off.
The town house they were staying in was a little run down as it hadn’t been used for a long time. The garden on the other hand was a piece of art. Yakami spent a joyous hour wandering between the trees and over tiny streamlets, until rain forced her inside. She now sat on the covered walkway wrapped in a blanket, sipping frothy green tea and drinking in the view.
A maid scurried over, “Your father wishes to see you.”
Sighing deeply, she stood up finishing her tea, and left the cup and blanket for the maid to collect. She passed servants cleaning and dusting, carpenters making repairs, and more servants washing the filthy textiles, before she reached her father’s room. She tapped tentatively on the paper screen.
“Enter,” he called. She slid open the door and stepped into the room.
He was sat on a cushion, in the centre of the floor, as people scuttled around him like bees around a queen. A low table had been set before him and his sword rested on his crossed legs. She walked slowly towards him, fearing he might shout. Kneeling on the cushion laid out for her, she poured tea for them both. As she waited for him to speak, he sipped his tea.
Eventually, he replaced the cup on the table and picked up a small wooden box. “This arrived for you. I assume it’s a gift from your husband. I’ve heard he is ill and your meeting will have to be postponed.”
“Yes Father,” she murmured, gently taking the box from him. It had a note attached to it, which read ‘To the eldest daughter of Lord Asahina, with love.’ Opening it, she found a single hand scroll which rested upon the finest purple silk. She unrolled it carefully to discover a beautiful ink painting of a prancing horse being ridden by a laughing young woman. As she stared at it open-mouthed, she recognised the girl as herself.
“What is it?” asked her father. She passed the scroll to him, too shocked to speak. “What an unusual painting, the girl almost looks like you.” He handed it back, “Put it somewhere safe. You may go.” She left silently, cradling the box.
The lamps had been lit, and Yakami sat alone in her room, a thick blanket about her shoulders, waiting for the brazier to be lit. She was appreciating her new painting, discovering every tiny detail. As she followed the strokes of the girl’s flowing hair, she noticed several small dots, which, as she stared at them, formed into words. The longer she looked, the more she saw, until they read ‘That which will make me happiest, Takeru.’
She had stayed up late again, reading a new book. This time however, she heard the screen door slide open and spun round to face her attacker. A man stood there, wearing a straw rain hat, a scarf, and a straw robe which dripped on the floor.
“It is unbelievably stuffy under here, even in this cold” he joked, removing it all, and dumping it outside, along with his outdoor shoes. This revealed a handsome young man, with wavy black hair tied away from his face. He was dressed simply, but comfortably, in black cotton. Yakami’s eyes however, were drawn inexorably to a pair of crinkled grey ones.
“Takeru,” she laughed, letting etiquette, and the screens hiding her emotions, slip, “I missed you. When you said we’d meet again, I didn’t think you’d wait a year.”
He walked over to the brazier, warming his hands on the dying coals, “I had to sort out a few things before talking to you. Mainly, I needed a more acceptable job than assassin, and to save money, so I could match the merchant’s wealth. But it will take a couple more years, and by then you’d be married.”
“But I don’t want to marry him,” she said, quietly, “Papa’s making me.” She eyed him suspiciously, “Did you have anything to do with his illness?”
He shifted uncomfortably, “I may have poisoned him a little. But he’ll be fine; I just wanted to talk to you before he did.” He faced her, nervous, “Will you come with me to Edo?” She looked at him, stunned, and he turned away, “You’ll be marrying lower than a merchant, I’m only an artisan, a lowly painter, and an apprentice one at that, but…”
She interrupted him, by kissing his cheek, “Of course I’ll come with you. A merchant’s just a merchant, but an artist can go places, see things, an artist can advance. I even know someone who’ll marry us, the abbot at Dainichiji temple, but we’ll have to head towards Kochi.”
“Perfect, we can get a ship to Edo, it’s faster.”
“I’ll have to collect a few things before we leave, although we can take Father’s mare; he never rides her.”
So they stole through the house, taking suitable clothes, some food, a couple of books and scrolls she wouldn’t leave, and even some gold from Saburo’s coffers, before packing it into a saddlebag. She changed into some old clothes they took from the soldiers’ barracks, stuffing her hair under a hat, yet Yakami refused to leave the silk he’d sent her, and tied it around her waist.
The scroll flapped in the breeze, as the door slid closed. Along the edge someone had scrawled, ‘Papa, this is how it must be.’ Outside, blossom fell from the cherry tree, coating the ground with petals. The back gate slammed shut, waking the guard, and two horses galloped through the street. High above the stars glimmered, talking through the interval.

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