WeWriWa—Identity revealed

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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. Though they forgot to bring their bag with chopsticks into the room, they’re game enough to eat with their hands.

Haradashi, one of the few friendly yokai

Umiko looked at her food for a few very long moments before reaching into the bowl of stewed daikon leaves and bringing a handful up to her mouth. She then ate a handful of rice and salmon, followed by drinking the miso soup straight from the bowl. As she set the soup bowl down, the elder pulled her robe away from her midsection to expose a silly face on her enormous stomach and began an equally silly dance.

“You’re Haradashi!” Umiko exclaimed.

“Indeed I am.” Haradashi continued dancing with random, silly steps, none of them related to one another or with any sort of pattern.

“How much gold do you want for your hospitality, Haradashi-sama?” Mizuki asked. “We should have enough to cover a night’s lodging plus food.”

The eight lines end here. A few more completing the scene follow.

Haradashi brushed a long lock of hair out of her eyes. “There’s no need to pay me. It’s my duty to help people and cheer them up. Where are you going after you leave?”

“Mount Amagi,” Umiko said. “We’re supposed to find a great Chinese doctor who can defeat Hososhin.”

“Good luck with that. That demon has been terrorizing our land for too long.” Haradashi lit another stick of incense. “I know of no magic strong enough to vanquish Hososhin forever, but keeping him away for a long time and minimizing the number of his victims will be victory enough. Perhaps someday your descendants shall discover magic we can only dream about, and Hososhin will become as much a part of foggy, ancient history as Emperor Jimmu and Amaterasu’s creation of Japan.”

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.