Daichi no Torai -Part One
Azumi can hear the bells and singing all the way from the inn at the edge of the capitol. She squeals with her friends as they all dress together for the Daichi no Torai. It is the fifteenth of go-gatsu. Azumi and all the children in her year who are turning fifteen must participate in the trials in order to become adults in society. Since Azumi is poor, her parents couldn’t afford to come with her to the ceremony, so she made the trip with a group of girls from her class. They had to save up for months just to be able to afford a room in the small inn at the edge of the capital. But even though it’s difficult, Azumi is excited! She hurries out the door with the large mass of other peasant children getting ready for the ceremony. Everyone they pass on the street wishes them luck. As they walk down the street more and more children join until it’s a parade of hundreds of younglings from all different villages and cities all ready to partake in the ceremonies. As the river of children merges with a smaller tributary headed from one of the nicest inns, Azumi sees her “bestest friends ever” in the crowd. She waves at Isamu and Yasushi trying to catch their attention. Luckily, Isamu sees her efforts and bumbles his way through the crowd as Yasushi follows hidden behind his lumbering figure.
“Hello! I’m so glad I was able to find you guys!” Azumi bubbles as Isamu pulls her off the ground in a big hug.
Yasushi snickers, “After this is done we gotta take you to this ramen cart that was right outside our inn! It’s almost as good as mister Honda’s!”
“No way! No one makes ramen like Mr. Honda!” retorts Azumi.
“We know but it’s soo good you need to try it!” he says rocking on his heels.
They try to keep talking but the noise of the crowd becomes deafening as yet another group joins the parade. Some people are singing, some are throwing bright powdered pigments into the air, coating the crowd. Onlookers are sitting at their doorsteps cheering and clapping them along.
The energy is so enrapturing that Azumi almost forgets the trials ahead of them. The day before they left they all met up at Mr. Honda’s noodle cart to make sure they at least got one last delicious meal together. Isamu and Yasushi will have a lot more responsibility if they return home, Azumi paused and shook the thought out of her head. No when, when they return home. If it wasn’t for Mr. Honda’s noodle cart their terrific trio may have never met. Seeing as they all loved his ramen, one day they discovered their shared guilty pleasure of spicy ramen and a dash of dried peppers . They’d been close friends ever since, Aoki Azumi the rice farmer, Bando Isamu the samurai in training, and Imada Yasushi the prince.
It seemed almost like a bad joke, a prince, a samurai, and a rice farmer walk up to a cart...
Now, years later, they’re here together ready to take their pilgrimage. Since Yasushi and Isamu are from different classes their pilgrimages are different. Azumi's will be relatively easy, well, as easy as a 3-day hike can be.
The crowd begins to fan out as they reach the ceremony site before the pilgrimage begins. They all enter a large amphitheater dedicated to Dachi, it is completely overgrown around the edges with large oak trees, the symbol of Dachi. Everyone who isn't stuck outside the amphitheater is packed into the stadium seats. Most are parents of children coming of age or of the young children participating in the ceremony. The mass of teens gathers into the center as a ellon gets up on the small podium and begins trying to get everyone to calm. Rainsticks echo through the auditorium which signals everyone to settle down. The ellon motions his hand for the crowd to sit. Azumi settles in squished between her friends. The ellon adorned in a long colorful robe and large rings of jewelry that stands stark against his deep blue skin begins speaking.
“Settle down everyone. I know you're eager to begin but we must pay our respects first. None of you could have come this far without the blessing of Emiko. Remember you have her grace as you pass through your trial. She will do her best to protect you so that Daichi may judge you fairly.”
“His hair looks like a monkey is strapped to his head,” Yasushi whispers in Azumi’s ear.
“Shhh listen,” She scolds.
“Yeah, and his jewelry looks like he's compensating for a lil’ something,” Isumi says a bit too loudly. The young girls from their city look back at the trio sternly as the boys snicker and continue making fun of the priest. He pontificates in a long speech on the importance of the goddess of children and the god of wisdom. “You all must prove your worth to Daichi so he may allow you to become wise as you age. As you transition to adults, you will no longer have the protection of the Emiko goddess of children and education.” He finishes his speech after about thirty minutes then he calls the young children from the city up on stage. Azumi thought back to all the times she had helped with the smaller ceremony back home before all the cool older kids left for the capitol. The group of about 20 kids ranging from 5 to 10 all leads them in a few hymns and chants.
Then the whole crowd grew silent as a young elleth took the stage. Oshiro Moriko The Empress’ daughter, next in line for the throne. According to Yasushi, his half-sister is quite the piece of work; he always comes and complains at the noodle cart when she visits the palace in Agsuma. She is quite the figure of beauty though. She has a rare shade of dusty pink for her skin tone and her eyes are a large sparkly grey with no pupils. You can hear her take a deep breath even in a large crowd. She leads them in prayer to Emiko, and after she exits with her long white dress flowing behind her, The mass of children stand and begin to file out of the stadium.
“Do you think we could stick together for the first part?” Yasushi says looking down at his feet. Azumi and Isamu both say, “of course,” in unison. They know they'll have to split up eventually but it'll be nice to take the journey with good friends.
Isumi pushes through the crowd with his friends following close behind him. His larger stature and generally intimidating look make forging through the crowd rather easy, at least easier than the time of his short friends. He keeps turning behind him to make sure he hasn't lost them. He wants to spend as much time as possible with them, Azumi and Yasushi don’t seem to realize how much life will change after the ceremonies, especially for Isumi. After the Pilgrimage, he will have completed his training and will begin serving as a samurai. He won’t be able to see Azumi as often, but if fate allows he’ll work as a guard for Yasushi. Yasushi will have to begin taking on more leadership roles, and Azumi will have to work much longer hours and likely quit school. Isumi is also more worried about the trail than his friends seem to be. He knows he’s trained and will be okay, and Azumi is strong. She shouldn’t struggle on the "everyman’s” path but Isumi is worried for Yasushi. He’s always looked out for his shy royal friend but here he won’t be able to.
The crowd of people begins to morph into a semi-straight line in rows of about 5 as they reach the end of town and the beginning of the Daichi no torai. The crowd snakes to the start of the path and it begins. They would start together and hike for half a day before reaching the divide, and separating. The beginning was easy, a long walk is all. They all had packed lots of food and water in their packs.
“Woooo!” shouted Yasushi as they crossed the sign that marked the beginning of the path.
“Hehe It begins!” giggles Azumi.
“I’m so glad to be away from that priest, Gods he took forever!” Laughed Yasushi.
“Yeah I’m glad the priests at home are at least a little entertaining.” chimed in Isumi.
They joked like that all the way till the crowd stopped for lunch. There were four adults taking the journey with them, a leader from each class. An old skinny ellon with a long grey beard for the everyman's path, a short stout ellon with bright clothing for the nobles, and a young tough looking elleth to lead the initiate samurais. There is also a priest of Daichi who wears traditional dark green robes. It was the adults who made the crowd stop. The trio sat down on a patch of grass just off to the side and pulled out their food. Azumi had a small cup of porridge leftover from yesterday, Isamu had some bok choy and fruit, and Yasushi had a yummy-looking rice cake which he happily shared with his friends. Before they knew it they were ushered along by one of the chaperones, the older ellon with a long beard that looked like salt and pepper. They packed up their rations and continued along.
It was mid-afternoon, with the bright sun burning over them when the crowd suddenly stopped. They had reached the three-pronged fork which marked the next phase of their journey. Yasushi and Isamu squashed Azumi in a big hug before she caught up with her group of girlfriends and headed down the "everyman’s path” to the left. To the right was the noble mans path where richer and people of power took their journey. And down the center was the samurai path. Anyone could take the samurai path and be allowed to rise above their class but few attempted and even fewer survived. Isumi has been training for this day his whole life. Yasushi also had to take the Samurai path though his journey would be very different. They would hike up the mountain together and summit it around midday tomorrow. Isumi and the other samurai would stay to partake in the next phase of their trail, and Yasushi would head back down the mountain. Alone. At night Kintsugi fills with terrifying monsters, no one goes out alone, not mages, not samurai, not even the orcs go alone. Yasushi is expected to prove he’s worthy of leadership by surviving the great wilds alone, all he has to do is survive. Isamu is very worried for his friend. He stares up at the steep path, takes a deep inhale, and starts heading up.