The Kimono, Chapter 43


After 12 years, “The Kimono” is finished and I am aiming at a publication date of September, 2018.  It’s been a long haul, where I studied Japanese culture, mythology and language for all those years.  This will be my first full length novel, though I have published 6 books in between this one.

Lord Yoki is a Tengu.  Tengus are big birds, originating from China but very much tied into Japanese mythology.  They are shape shifters, and bedevil arrogant Buddhist priests.  Lord Yoki figures greatly into this novel.  He also, as does the main female character, Mari, travel from the 21st. century Kyoto  to 17th century Japan.  Over the course of a year, this Tengu has fallen in love with Mari.

Lady Nyo

Lord Yoki perched on the window ledge. He felt most comfortable perching. A Tengu was just a big bird, after all. He was still dressed in an old linen kimono, badly patched and stained. It was this or feathers. It was harder and harder to maintain the glamour. He had to concentrate on those parts that were reverting, his hair and limbs, but he could do nothing about the feet. They would always remain clawed.

He was conflicted. This was the first time in centuries that his heart hurt. He was racked with emotion from the time he awoke until the time he roosted. He thought he might be in love. And, of course, his beloved had to be someone who was out of his league: a mortal woman.

How could he have fallen to such a state? Lord Yoki prided himself on being a tough old bird. He looked at the world through a cynical eye. He only believed in the warmth of the thermals and sake. And a few pretty trinkets, for he had a magpie nature. Now he found himself in love. How could he reveal himself to her? Would she find him distasteful, ridiculous, insane? He pecked at a flea amongst his breast feathers. He had fallen in love and knew she would be horrified if he revealed the truth of his form. He was a skinny, molting old bird and a scrawny old “man”. A devil cannot hide in the form of an angel for long. Nature rebels. He remembered the story of Lucifer. He certainly felt like Lucifer, the Great Deceiver. Could she overlook his appearance to see into his heart?

He was fooling himself. His opposition was too powerful: a mortal man. Even without the magical advantages of a Tengu, the man would surely win any battle between them. He also knew that he had much more to lose than a friendship. His rival would wear his severed head on his battle helmet. He had joked to his beloved about this but he knew this man was still a barbarian at heart.

No, his love, his admiration for her would have to remain concealed in the bottom of his heart. He chanced losing both of them and that would be unbearable, even for a stoic Tengu. If not through love, how could he protect her? Only the mystical gods knew what would happen and even they sometimes faked it.

Bah! He wished he was back in San Francisco, in that park, in the form of a pigeon. Then he could look up skirts as he strutted around and there would be no complaints. Still, he knew why he mourned. She was the only one who knew what the world was about. The parochial mentality of the people around him drove him nuts. They waved their amulets in the faces of the sick, smoked up the room with incense until the sick couldn’t breathe and brewed noxious potions to make them swallow. They usually died, perhaps because of these ignorant customs. A little common sense and some soap and water would work miracles. She knew this. She also knew nostrums that could save lives. Further, she was the only one he could talk with about history. He couldn’t read, there were no schools for birds, but he could ask questions. And he did. She told him about the world before this century, and of course, the centuries after. The world was an immense place, and though his eyes were closed as he flew by the moon, he knew something of this.

These generals! These nobles! They thought they knew about warfare? Hah! They knew nothing. As a pigeon walking around San Francisco, he had watched television in store fronts. His hackles raised at the inhumanity of people! Nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, these were just some of the arsenal of these modern warlords. These 17th century daimyos who went to war against each other may as well have hurled rocks and sticks at the opposition considering what was to come. This century hadn’t seen real guns yet. They only had the blunderbusses that the Spanish had thrown away. The men of this century were savages. They killed for the sport of it. The only laws were those that came from Edo and most of those were ignored. The real law lay within the two swords carried by men and there were enough of them to go around.

Even if his beloved could come to love him, where would he take her? Tengus lived in mountains, in nests, where they fought other Tengus for territory and tripped up arrogant Buddhist priests. What would she think of that? She didn’t lay eggs and wouldn’t know how to clean a nest properly. And she didn’t have feathers to fluff in the cold months. She would be disgusted by the food she would have to eat. It would be a bitter life for her. He loved her more than that.

He knew she was a pawn in a bigger game. Lord Tetsu was an ambitious daimyo and he needed her knowledge to increase his power and build a larger life for himself. Could she deliver what he wanted?

Lord Yoki realized that if his beloved tied her wagon to Lord Tetsu, he would have to secrete her away from court life. She would always live in the shadows of the castle. Was that any better than living in a nest in the mountains?


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018


Tengus are warriors, martial arts experts and teach the Yamabushi (mountain- yama, bushi-warrior) their skills at warfare.  They are shapeshifters, and have magical arts. They also don’t like arrogant Buddhist priests and cause trouble for them.  Over the centuries, their ‘pr’ has changed.

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