A young child runs away from being sealed inside a shrine and becomes sicker and sicker the further he gets away from his family's shrine.
Disclaimer: This is my own original work.:
Silently he sat gazing into the pond; passed its rich green flora. His dark brown eyes focused on a solitary, elderly catfish with a back covered in algae. Yamako felt he could identify with that wise, bottom feeder swimming in circles before him. They were both trapped, and though they could see a world beyond their own, they could not leave their own world, or at least not yet. Ever since he had been five years old Yamako had been lectured and warned to never go beyond the steps of the mountain shrine where his family lived. He yearned to see more then the little rivers, mountain streams, tall conifers, and small village that made up his world. Yamako looked up into the azure skies above him. A majestic hawk flew over head along with several other smaller birds that his dark eyes could not make out. Yamako fell backwards spreading his arms out wide as his mud stained and slightly torn, black tabi feet kicked at the empty air.
Yamako closed his eyes tightly shut and felt he had sprouted wings. His arms tested out his wings as he laid there flapping them until he took flight from the ground. The wild air rushed about him, ravaging his brown locks and bearing him far away only to be brought soaring back to reality by the sound of her rasped voice.
His brown orbs slowly cracked open as he saw the stern, squat figure of his grandmother scowling over him. Her gray streaked, black hair had been tightly pulled back into a bun; a gohei jutted out of the folds of the crimson obi wrapped around the waist of her white kimono with a pink cherry blossom print.
“Yamako! You have your mother very worried about you! And you’ve ruined another pair of tabi.” The former priestess scolded him.
His head hung low so that his bangs fell to half cover his eyes, “I am very sorry honorable grandmother. I’ll go back at once.” He felt her kind hands tousle through his short brown hair.
Yamako looked up to see a faint smile upon her withered lips, “You are hopeless. To think you are the successor. I guess these things cannot be helped. Go back to the shrine now. And next time remember to wear your zori when you go out.” She gave him a firm push in the direction of the shrine steps.
He quickly rushed back to the long winding stairs. The babbling water, the chirping of birdsongs and the sounds of every animal infiltrated his ears. He felt so alive as his tattered, black spilt toed socks touched the earth. Yamako saw the gray mountain stairs winding upward toward the mountain’s summit before him. He rushed onto the steps and charged upward with the boundless energy of youth.
The black beads around his wrists felt ice cold. They always did when he got close to the shrine’s main gates after having been away from it. Once he passed through the cold dissipated as always from his wrists. He felt a warmth and vitality he little comprehended fill his body. Every time he came towards the center of the shrine he felt so much stronger then when he had left it to look around his mountain home.
He halted in the courtyard as he heard his mother crying out his name, “Yamako! There you are! I have looked all over the shrine for you.”
He ran towards the slender, willow branch shape that was his mother. She was taller then most woman that Yamako had ever met in the village, and she could seem very intimidating when she was angry or upset with her son; because of that fact. She had come from the island north of Honshu, and he had listened eagerly to her far away tales of great heroes, beautiful princesses, powerful spirits, and cunning animals. Yamako pushed all thought of stories aside as his arms embraced his mother. The sweet scent of plum blossoms, the scent of his mother, overwhelmed all his sense of smell as his face crushed against her stomach. Her arms wrapped affectionately around him to return the hug.
She took a small step back from him as their arms released each other from the embrace. Yamako’s mother smiled down at him, “Today is a very important day. You turned fourteen years old today, and start your path of becoming the High Priest.”
She bent downwards and he felt those soft lips kiss his brow. “You have very important duties to learn today. Go and get ready for the ceremony.”
* * *
The moon hung bright and full in the dark blue, night sky as Yamako finished relieving himself behind a pine tree not far from the shrine. On his way back to his room he caught the faint sight of a faint light emanating from the shrine’s main hall. It was far to late for anyone to be up and that piqued Yamako’s curiosity. Stealthily he used the night’s darkness as cover to sneak up there. Quietly the brunette boy crept ever closer; opening the sliding paper doors ever so noiselessly. The adolescent halted in the shadows before the doors of the main hall’s central room. Candlelight burnt brightly in that room, casting ten knelt figures’ shadows on the shoji screens as Yamako listened to their furtive whispers.
An unfamiliar male voice urged, “No. You are wrong, Tsubaki-san. He is more free spirited then his father.”
Yamako was not sure whom they were talking about. He wondered if it was his own father that they were talking about so quietly. All he had known of his father was that he had died the same day he was born. No one ever spoke about his father to him. He snuck a little closer into the shadows near the paper screened wall to better hear them.
He heard his mother’s voice shout in protest, “You can’t do that to him! He’s only a child.”
The voice he couldn’t place from earlier snapped, “Keep it down, woman. Do you want to wake him? What would a foreigner know of this matter? Sit down and be silent. That ‘child’ as you call him is well over a thousand years old. It is tradition and must be done.”
“Yamako is my son, and I will not allow you to seal him away in the main hall, like some sacred relic. I can still remember his father’s last words. He pleaded and begged with me not to let Yamako become a caged bird.” His mother defended him against this fate of being sealed. He felt so powerless as he continued to listen to their debate with more interest knowing that they had met in secret to talk about him. He wondered if perhaps he had some demon sealed away inside of him that needed to be kept a prisoner of this shrine.
That same angry voice stated matter of fact in a whisper, “I am the Head of the Miyoshi Clan and my word is final. Dawn tomorrow, Yamako will be sealed.” The figure stood up and exited the central hall from the doors opposite where Yamako hid.
His grandmother’s voice remarked, “I had a feeling it would end this way. We humans fear for ourselves and act only in our own best interests. So be it. Tomorrow Yamako will be sealed away. It is his fate. There is nothing more we can do.”
“Tsubaki!” His mother choked as he heard the tears in her voice, “Please, make them see this is wrong. You were once a priestess. You must understand why Yamako shouldn’t be sealed.”
Only silence greeted his mother’s cry for help. Yamako silently crept away from the central chamber of the main hall. He had no desire to be sealed as though he were some demon or malicious spirit.
“I will run away. I will finally see everything I heard about in the tales of passing travelers and mother’s stories,“ Yamako thought to himself as he rushed back to the room he shared with his mom.
He pushed open the sliding door glad to see that his mother had not yet returned. He stuffed several spare pillows under the quilt of his futon. Yamako swiftly put his kimono and obi on over his white juban and fundoshi. He sat on the ledge that served as a small veranda around the building as he slipped on his zori. The youth jumped up from his sitting position to take off like a shot as he raced down the mountainside. He headed into the woods; not daring to take the shrine stairs, least he be caught trying to make his escape.
His stomach felt uneasy with fear as his heart trembled with excitement, and he wondered if that was how Momotaro had felt when he had left his parents behind for his adventure to face evil spirits on Onigashima Island.
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