WeWriWa—Sitting down to dine

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.

Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. They’re now in a temple occupied only by one elderly woman, who invited them to dine along with their horse Ayumu.

“What is your name, esteemed lady?” Mizuki asked as she sank onto a blue cushion.

“You’ll soon figure out my name.” Their hostess lifted the teakettle and filled three cups. “This is persimmon tea.”

Umiko and Mizuki drank while their hostess stirred the pots again and presently filled six bowls with the culinary delights. As a final touch, she grated fresh ginger on top of each and stirred it in. No sooner had the food been set before them than Umiko remembered something.

“May we retrieve more of our luggage, honored elder? We forgot the bag with our chopsticks.”

The first nine lines end here. A few more to finish this scene follow.

“Chopsticks?  You girls use chopsticks?  You must be wealthy!”

“I’m from an aristocratic family, though not the richest family in Japan.  My companion is of lower rank, but not so low she has to eat with her hands.”

“We don’t always use chopsticks,” Mizuki said. “I’m more used to using them than my hands, but I don’t feel insulted at having to eat the old-fashioned way.”

WeWriWa—Invited to dine

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.

Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. They’re now taking shelter from the rain in a temple occupied only by one elderly woman, who’s invited them to dine along with their horse Ayumu.

Mizuki picked up the rolled-up clothes, and the elderly woman led them down a long hall lined with statues of Buddha in gold, silver, stone, marble, bronze, and wood, until they reached a large room near the back of the temple. An irori, a sunken hearth, blazed away in the middle of the room. Delicious scents seeped forth from several pots and a teakettle. The room was also filled with the aroma of jasmine incense. Along the back wall were two piles of straw mats topped by long, thick, red silk cushions.

“If you don’t like miso soup, stewed daikon leaves, and rice mixed with salmon, I can prepare something else,” the elder said. “You also have sweets to look forward to.”

Umiko looked at her curiously. “Don’t all Buddhist monastics abstain from animal products?”

The first nine lines end here. Several more follow.

“I cook what I know my guests will eat, and there’s no law prohibiting the killing and eating of fish. As long as one doesn’t eat without gratitude to the animals for their noble sacrifice, I don’t see why it should be avoided.” The elder stirred her pots. “A healthy diet also requires variety, and most people would quickly starve or become bored if they ate nothing but rice, fruit, and vegetables.”

WeWriWa—Greeted by the temple caretaker

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.

Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. They’re now taking shelter from the rain in a temple which appeared abandoned.

Main hall of Tokyo’s Senso-ji temple, Copyright Tak1701d

“We should look for the monks’ living quarters,” Mizuki said as she unhitched the cart. “I can’t wait to sleep inside again.”

“May I interest you girls in a warm room and hearty meal?”

Umiko looked to her left and saw an elderly woman with regal bearing, a yellow robe sweeping the floor, and a very large stomach. “I hope we aren’t intruding in your beautiful temple, honored lady, and that we haven’t insulted you by bringing a horse inside. We only entered to take temporary shelter from the rain.”

The strange elder smiled. “There’s no need to apologize. Only I live here most of the time, and it’s my duty to serve all guests. What would you like to eat?”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow.

“Anything you see fit to serve us, of course, esteemed elder,” Mizuki said. “We’re the guests in your temple.”

WeWriWa—Entering the temple

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.

Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. After a few days in the forest, under the protection of Baku, they’ve emerged into a lush grassland. When rain began coming down, they hightailed it towards the nearest building.

Nio of the Jodo-ji temple in Matsuyama, Copyright Dokudami

Ayumu came to a stop in front of a temple matching the one on Shinobu’s map. Rain came down more and more heavily as Umiko dismounted Ayumu and made her way to the gates. On either side were Nio, muscular images of Buddha. The statue on the right had an open mouth, and the one on the left had a closed mouth.

“Should we take Ayumu inside?” Mizuki asked. “Animals have the potential to reach Nirvana just as humans do, and could’ve been loved ones in former lifetimes.”

“It’ll be worse to leave her outside,” Umiko said. “We’ll only stay here until the rain stops.”

Rain began pounding heavily upon the roof as soon as they were in the main hall. Some of the rain gushed in through cracks in the stone walls.

The ten lines end here. One more is below.

No other sounds could be heard, and Umiko didn’t sense the presence of anyone else, animal or human.

WeWriWa—Baku to the rescue

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.

Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. They’re now in the forest, where they encounter Baku, a yokai assembled from various animal body parts. Despite his fearsome appearance, Baku is a very powerful force of good and a holy protector of humans.

Sculpture of Baku, Copyright Momotarou2012

A huge bear walking on its hind legs menaced out from a cluster of trees on the left and promptly raced back to its lair at the sight of Baku. An eerie blue light then appeared on the right, slowly turning into a giant reptile. The moment it began creeping towards the human intruders, Baku leapt on it and gobbled it up.

“Do you understand speech, Baku?” Umiko called. “We want you to walk with us till we exit the forest. You’re the supreme yokai, and everyone fears you.”

Baku paced up alongside the cart, pawing at the ground. As the travelers proceeded through the woods, Baku took turns walking on all four sides of the cart. Every few minutes, Baku leapt at ghostly lights and fearsome creatures, devouring them all. Other yokai fled at the sight of him.