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Burnt Offerings

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Joined: 20 May 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:13 pm    Post subject: Burnt Offerings Reply with quote

For her grandfather Ee Taki Ojii-sanís spirit, for he tires of his burial gown, young Ee Uzuki has made a new kimono of fine paper, inked and folded. It shimmers like silk, and is so light that a momentís rain might tear it as easily as a clawed beast.
Her mother has spent the past week making his favourite dishes the same way, with real spices tucked inside so that he will smell it on the smoke.
Normally her father would have made a pyre on which to cast these before leaving for the theatre, but he had held off, because it was said that a monk was coming who would help them give their gifts to their ancestors.

Where Taki Ojii-san had been the villageís old soldier, full of stories of distant shards, Uzukiís father, Ee Bao Otou-san is respected for his skill with the land. No coincidence that he had been chosen to lead the auction and introduce the opera, even had his father not passed so recently, the Ee were being rewarded for their service to Lord Assagai and to their community, and in his humility, Bao will honour his father and lead. Uzuki understands all of this intently, she is happy that her father is being respected, and she and her mother will support him in this festival, which will hopefully be his first month of being a leader in their village.

There is a sound of distant music on the air. Uzuki buries her excitement in her stomach, puts a grown up expression on her face, and carries the family offerings towards the thoroughfare.

The 9 year old girl is caught up in what seems to be a dream. The air is thick with perfume, incense and cinnamon. The music rattles and whistles, laughs and chants. The first day of the seventh month becomes all the seasons at once, but all dry, all ready to burn.

At that thought, Uzuki, who was not sure she had been thinking at all, comes more to her senses (overwhelmed though they may be). She raises her offerings, and steps forward.

She sees the Monk in red, who guides the caravan in person, leading the procession with a prayer wheel in one hand, while a set of chimes dangle from the other.

He offers her a choice, he can either offer her gifts to her grandfather through a pyre lit from the fire of her fatherís hearth, or by his own flame. Uzuki inwardly panics, for she has no way of politely saying that she has no choice at all. Her father made no pyre and her mother has left the hearth unlit. And in her fear she can feel the other spirits.

For it is not called the Ancestor Spirits festival. This is Hungry Ghost Month, and while ancestors are honoured first, with the veil of death only paper thin, Wandering Spirits draw near, hungry.

ďMy father Ee Bao gives offering to his father Ee Taki, and we have gifts for him, and for the spirits of our home and family. We are humbled by the gift of your flame, Sensei. I Ee Uzuki give these gifts through you.Ē

As she speaks the words, improvising as little as possible, Uzuki is shocked as her eyes meet those of her audience, and they come into focus for her as individuals and not a parade. A rabbit lord, a round eyed lady, samurai who underneath their helmets are each a bit too different, inhuman eyes and snouts and ears poke from their helmets, Warriors of the Beast Courts! Spirits dancing all around them! Her fear is overwhelmed by curiosity.

Filled with questions, Uzuki is distracted as the Monk speaks the acceptance. She catches that Jian-no-Yoshiaki is his name, but almost loses even that as his hands roar into flame?

For a moment she can see her ojii-san beside her in his new kimono, mouthing his silent gratitude.

Ee Uzuki has never seen such a sign before, never more than a whisper on the wind. She cries, she laughs. And then she joins the festival, only for as far as it reaches the marketplace where her fatherís theatre, and the spirit shed and other temporary altars and stalls have been built.
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Joined: 20 May 2016
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yoshi repeats his offer at several more homes as Usagi's caravan makes its way towards the village.

The ritual, the ceremony, the hospitality and purpose are reassuring. He rarely needs to glimpse their auras to understand their intentions, for even without empathy, he can understand the faith of of men and women and children, giving to their ancestors. Respect. Honour. Tradition. Familial Love and Pride.

Soon the village is bright and loud, colourful lanterns adorning bamboo temples and edifices, so that the true buildings of the market and tax office cannot even be seen beneath the festivities. Not concealed, but trees lost in a wood.

The simple theatre the locals had erected is now the glorious centrepiece of a true spectacle.

Yoshi tends the various shrines while curios of the dead are auctioned, some offered more than their value to inflate the egos of dead former owners, others with true significance bidded upon to entice or distract spirits to follow their descendants into new homes.

And then the opera begins, and Yoshi asks Usagi to guide him to an empty seat with the other Kami and other Spirits in the front rows, for even to his eyes most of the chairs seem unoccupied.
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