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.

WeWriWa—Entering the forest

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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. At the beach, they encountered friendly shojo, an orangutan-like race of yokai, who gave them twenty bottles of wine. Though shojo wine can cure diseases, the girls need to stay on the road and find Shoki.

Sculpture of Baku, Copyright Momotarou2012

Umiko had never ventured inside the forest. Everyone in her family, her tutors, and many of the servants had terrified her away from it with tales of horror about yokai lurking among the trees, in caves, underground, and in the skies. Some of these yokai were cannibals who loved feasting on humans daring to disturb their homes, particularly when those humans were children. It was better to be safe than sorry.

All too soon, the light gave way to darkness, and thick clusters of branches blocked out the sky. Umiko looked straight ahead as she rode Ayumu through the dark forest. The wheels of the cart rolled over many dead leaves, stones, bark, and broken branches, and the crunching sounds were amplified in the silence.

Umiko held Ayumu’s neck more tightly when a monstrous creature appeared in front of her. It had the body of a bear, the head of a lion, the tail of an ox, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the trunk and tusks of an elephant, and the legs of a tiger. The creature stopped and sniffed the air before gobbling up a thick white mist with a crazed curving shape.

The ten lines end here. A few more are below.

“That’s Baku,” Mizuki said. “He’ll protect us. A baku never hurts humans.”

WeWriWa—Shojo wine

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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, have set off on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. They’re now on the beach with shojo, an orangutan-like race of yokai who are generally good to humans.

Wine offerings at Meiji Shrine, Copyright Berlinuno

“Please have some of our wine,” a tall shojo repeated. “We love serving humans.”

Umiko took a drink from the extended blue bottle. The liquid which hit her tongue had a taste like nothing she’d ever experienced. It had a distinctive flavor of grapes, but everything else was hard to decipher.

“What do you use in your wine?” Umiko asked as Mizuki drank. “Do you grow underwater grapes?”

A slender shojo shook her head. “Our wines are made with secret recipes. All humans are allowed to know about them is that our wine tastes delicious and distinctive to good people, and can be poisonous to evil people.”

WeWriWa—Meeting the shojo

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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, have set off on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a legendary doctor in Ancient China who’s now renowned as a great slayer of disease demons. Umiko’s three-greats-grandma Shinobu gave them an illustrated map and explained what they have to do.

Shojo, drawn ca. 1712 by Terajima Ryōan

Though the beach had been deserted since Hososhin began his reign of terror, today there were many people playing in the waves, dancing in the sand, singing, and drinking. When Umiko looked closer, she realized those weren’t people at all, but shojo, an orange-haired, orangutan-like race of sea-spirit yokai.

“Hello, my young friends,” a shojo in a seaweed robe greeted them. “Would you care for some of our brine wine? We brewed it from the seawater.”

“Yes, we’d be honored to drink whatever you’re serving,” Umiko said.

“Where do you live?” a short shojo asked.

Umiko pointed behind her. “After Hososhin arrived, everyone began falling ill, and we were removed to the smallest guesthouse with my esteemed great-great-great-grandmother almost two weeks ago. It’s the only remaining place free of Hososhin.”

WeWriWa—Preparations to leave

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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.

Shinobu, the 100-year-old three-greats-grandma of Umiko Hamasaki, suggested getting help from nearby yokai (spirits). Mizuki, daughter of the senior lady-in-waiting, was stunned to be asked to accompany Umiko.

Ue means “above,” and denotes a very high level of respect. Sousobo means “great-grandmother.”

Toshodai-ji Temple’s Treasure House, an example of Nara architecture.
Copyright Nekosuki

“Even if we were of equal rank, Sousobo-ue, we’re so young, and female,” Umiko said. “If you believe this is such a worthwhile endeavor, could we deliver a message to an older man more capable of doing this? You also need someone to look after you.”

Shinobu took a drink of tea. “How do you suppose I lived an entire century? I’m more than capable of taking care of myself for a short while. In the morning, I’ll tell you more about the journey you must undertake.”

***

After a breakfast of miso soup and steamed rice with eggs cracked on top, Umiko and Mizuki rolled up a week’s worth of red clothes and filled several bags with fruit from the trees in the orchard, rice, ivory chopsticks, a wooden stirring spoon, steel and flint for starting fire, and cloth-wrapped eggs from the pet chickens. After everything was packed, Mizuki filled three very large jugs with water from the only untainted well left and fetched an iron cooking pot. She then went back into the house for cushions and blankets.

The ten lines end here. One more line is below.

Mizuki put the luggage in a cart and hitched it up Umiko’s favorite horse, Ayumu.

***********************

In the first draft of the story, the girls set off with magical fire-starting and invisibility potions Shinobu made. When asked, she said she found shelter with the witch Ouni during a thunderstorm many years ago, and was taught the secrets of many magical potions and spells. Given the 4,000-word limit, that was one of the things I had to edit out.