By Rebecca Demarest
There once was a young scholar, Byron, who heard of a fantastic land far across the ocean. It was said that this land was one of grace and beauty and held the secrets of peace and prosperity. Intrigued, he decided to find out what he could. He read books and viewed paintings. He even found a sorcerer adept at creating false moving pictures to try and quench his thirst for knowledge about this far off land. Finding this all inadequate, Byron finally decided he must go find this land for himself, and set out
It took many days and many nights to travel the length the of his home country, and then many more to cross the vast oceans that lay between him and his goal. But, eventually, and without too much mishap, Byron landed on the shores of a
It wasn’t long before Byron came upon Hitomi, a fellow teacher and researcher.
On one such occasion, the two of them visited the beaches where his ship had come to rest. The two of them stared out over the vast ocean, him pointing out the direction in which his land lay and Hitomi pretending she could see so far as to view the great mountains which he said rose over his homeland. Laughing, they decided to take a skiff out into the water to peer
Over time, the two fell deeply in love, but neither was entirely sure whether their love would be accepted, seeing as how Byron
Byron was torn. It was the opportunity he had been waiting for all his life, the greatest possible place to further his knowledge, but it would mean leaving the side of his beloved. He loved Hitomi, but this was what he had
Yamauba, the spirit on the mountain, had been protecting and nurturing the village for eons. Her wisdom, Byron reasoned, must be even greater than that of my own mother, so, he decided to climb to the peak to ask for her what she thought.
As he hiked, he called out to the forests and the mountains. He called out to the mountain mother, talking of Hitomi’s beauty and intelligence, but also of his dreams to become the greatest scholar in the land, and how he must choose one or the other. He had barely made it half-way up the path when the mountain shook, throwing great clumps of dirt and trees into the air.
Terrified, his only thought was of Hitomi and her safety. He ran down the mountain, even as the pebbles still fell, to find that her family’s rice fields were untouched and she was unharmed. She laughed when he told her where he had been. It was obvious, the answer, she said. When your life was in danger, did you think of your books?
No, he replied, only of you. I shall stay here, and ask for your father’s permission for your hand.
That, too, is silly. She agreed with him that the opportunity in the great temple of learning was too important to him to give up entirely, but they should continue their courtship from afar, making time in each of their studies to travel to one another. The distance wasn’t so great, she said, as he seemed to assume it was. For the sake of their love, they would
Byron praised her for her great wisdom and made preparations to go to the temple the next day. As he left, a gentle snow fell over the land, unusual for that time of year, but the couple took it as a blessing, and there were many tearful goodbyes.
The temple of learning was all he could have hoped for, with many ancient texts and clever students and teachers to interact with. During holidays, Hitomi always visited, but the visits were too short, leaving Byron dissatisfied. So the scholar traveled back to Hitomi’s house and went to her father to ask for his
He dressed in his best clothes to present his argument to the old farmer. Byron knelt in front of the man, offering him the proper respect. He laid out his case, piece by piece, highlighting their love for each other, his status as a scholar, and his intention to build a life for the two of them that would be comfortable and fulfilling. The old man nodded along with all of this, but when the young scholar had finished, he shook his head.
You are a stranger to our lands and do not know our ways, he said. I am afraid your novelty over time will fade and my daughter will be unhappy with you.
Let me prove myself, Byron begged. Surely there is some way I can prove that I am worthy of the regard in which your daughter holds me.
I need to think on this, the father replied. Please, I invite you to stay and meditate at the temple with me while I decide whether there is a task in which you can help prove yourself.
The young man agreed, eagerly, and followed the devout father to the
Have you decided? Byron asked eagerly.
Yes, but first we must bring in the harvest for if we don’t,
As the father finished his evening repast, Byron respectfully knelt once more in front of him, to ask, May I know what task is expected of me?
Not tonight, my boy, tonight we celebrate an excellent harvest. He gestured for saki to be brought and
Needless to say, at this point, the young scholar fell asleep. In the morning, he stirred
The old man did not answer him for a moment, and the two of them listened to the birds. The young scholar was afraid the man might never answer until he replied, For eight days, you meditated faithfully at my side, so I know you are devout. Without being asked, you picked up sickle and hook and helped feed my family, so I know you are hardworking, and will provide well for my daughter. And, last night, though you kept up with me drink for drink, never once were you angry or hostile. You were happy, if drowsy, so I know that if you
Anything, Byron swore, I will finish it with speed.
The old man looked bashful. Alas, I am afraid I misled you. I alone do not have the power to grant my daughter’s hand. She was promised many years ago to Yamauba, the great mother, in return for her protection of our valley. You must climb the mountain and ask for her permission to wed Hitomi.
Immediately, Byron promised. Hitomi, eavesdropping on this conversation, declared that she would accompany her beloved up the mountain, and they started out immediately. As soon as they reached the foothills, a great storm blew up, and the couple struggled
Halfway up the mountain, Byron stopped, and planted his feet. He screamed into the teeth of the storm, I am determined, Yamauba. I love Hitomi and I wish to marry her. Nothing you throw at me will drive me from this path.
Exhausted by the never-ending string of challenges, the traveling scholar asked, and what might that be?
Why, you must ask Hitomi herself.
Grinning, Byron knelt before his beloved, clasping her hands, the both of them drenched by the storm. He thought her hair had never looked so beautiful as it did then, being tossed about by the winds that surrounded Yamauba. Hitomi, my beloved, will you marry me?
Hitomi smiled, replying, of course.
Together, they rose, and with the blessing of Yamauba, they returned to Hitomi’s village where a great feast awaited them. They celebrated their marriage with their family and friends and to this day they are happy
About The Author
Rebecca A. Demarest is an award-winning author, book designer, and technical illustrator living in Seattle, WA with her husband. Together, they maintain a household jungle, cater to a dog-like cat named Cat and a Portuguese Water Dog named Teal’c. When she isn’t writing, you can find her at the Bureau of Fearless Ideas teaching the youth of Seattle how to get their ideas onto the page, crocheting, embroidering, and playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons. She is currently working on the sequels for everything, so, before you ask, yes, you’ll find out what happened to Benny, Sophia will keep sticking her nose in dangerous places, and Thea will find the seedy underbelly of Oz.
Rebecca’s website: http://www.