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Risen from the flames


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A week later, in the Phoenix lands to the east…

Tsukune was midstride across the threshold of the forest shrine before she realized her mistake. She winced as her right foot touched the blessed ground on the other side of the torii arch
before her left. Before her peers and in the home of her ancestors, she’d barged into her family’s shrine like a Lion.

When they had both progressed beyond the entrance, Tsukune whispered to the man matching her stride. “I did it again.”
“No one noticed,” Tadaka replied. “Just keep going.”

Tsukune tucked her hands into her kimono sleeves and matched her pace with that of her charge, keeping their place in the wordless procession of topknots, Shiba family mon, and creamy white obi. Their path was a winding upward twist of stone steps and fiery torii arches. The crisp breeze stirred the sloping glades of pink moss to either side, sweeping up their petals to scatter along the way. It was a blessing in the unseasonable spring warmth, even as it painted the temple arches with thick coats of pollen.

Tadaka whispered prayers while he walked, passing a string of beads between his large hands, one jade orb at a time. He towered a full head above the rest, his elaborate layered kimono making his broad back into a lone banner for the Isawa family. In each backward glance he drew from the others, Tsukune saw eyes brightening with respect. Those cast at her, she could not read.

[...]

 

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