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The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2: Chasing Dreams

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2: Chasing Dreams

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The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2: Chasing Dreams

229 pages
2 heures
Jun 13, 2019


A bird-girl may fly between two worlds. But to protect her future, she must reclaim her human rights.

Japan, 1871. Toki-girl Azuki wants to share her talents with Japan’s changing world. But without proper status in her community, she can only watch and worry as war engulfs her beloved homeland. So, when she unearths a priceless treasure, she hopes she's found the key that could stop the fighting and win her heart’s desire.

Embarking on a treacherous journey to the provincial capital to secure her lord’s approval, Azuki and her sparrow-boy brother join forces with a kindly warrior monk. But with hawk-like demons on the attack and bandits lurking behind every tree, she fears the peaceful land she loves could be lost forever.
Will Azuki defeat the demonic forces to reclaim her rights and her home?
Chasing Dreams is the thrilling second book in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy historical fantasy series. If you like heroes from folklore, fiendish enemies, and action-packed adventures, you’ll love Claire Youmans’ mythical story, another tale from the Meiji Era.

Jun 13, 2019

À propos de l'auteur

Claire Youmans first went to Japan in 1992 and was immediately captivated. After years of travel and study, she continues to be charmed and amazed by a fascinating history and a culture that's both endearingly quirky and entirely unique.In 2014, she started Tales of the Meiji Era with The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's unparalleled blend of historical fantasy in the first book of the series, Coming Home. She continues exploring the combination of history and folklore to share her love and fascination with a very different country and culture.Exciting adventures continue to unfold in this delightful fantastical yet historical world. Follow these at www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com, www.facebook.com/tokigirlandsparrowboy/ and on Twitter @tokigirlsparrow, and http://claireyoumansauthor.blogspot.com, where she frequently shares poetry and Life on th

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The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2 - Claire Youmans


Japan is a real place and the Meiji Era is a real time, running from 1868 to 1912. This was a wonderfully exciting time around the world as new inventions changed how people worked and how people lived. New ideas and ways of thinking changed how people viewed the world around them, their systems of government, and their relationships with each other. Nowhere was this truer than in Japan, which leapt from a crumbling feudalism to a modern first-world power in that incredibly short period of time.

In the World of Make-Believe, however, there exists a Japan that incorporates both the real and Japan's colorful, adventurous folklore. It comes to life with stories that reflect the lives of normal humans and the not-so-normal folkloric beings who shared this space and time with them.

In the northern part of Kyushu at this time there lived a husband and wife who straddled the Artisan and Samurai classes, yet owned their own land without being either nobles or peasants. They acquired, by adoption, their daughter, Azuki, who could become a Japanese Crested Ibis or toki, and their son, Shota, who could become a sparrow. Greed and a lust for power resulted in the deaths of this couple and the flight of their children who found only war and tumult on their doorstep when they returned.

How they regain their human heritage, how they cope with their changing world while still remaining their individual selves, how they make friends and help others despite a total lack of certainty in their lives gives rise to tales and adventures of the Meiji Era. The Toki-girl and the Sparrow-Boy series combines history and folklore in a unique blend of historic fantasy that brings to life an extraordinary era and some very exceptional beings.

Join Azuki, Shota and their friends in all their intriguing and captivating adventures as they live their own tales of the Meiji era!

Chapter One

Nami ni tsuru — Hiroshige (1833-5)

THWACK! Azuki drove the axe into the log.

THUNK! She picked up the whole thing and slammed it onto the rock she was using as a chopping block.

CRACK! The log split! She set the axe aside to pick up the pieces and add them to the stack of firewood rapidly accumulating against the wall of the cave’s large inner chamber. Light came from a natural chimney off to the side, highlighting a trickle that formed a tiny pool before going underground. It emerged as a creek outside the cave, not far from where the hot spring burbled up to the surface.

She wiped her forehead with her head covering. This was triangular with a wide band attached that tied in the back to hold it in place. She dipped it into the pool, splashed her face in the cool water, and took a drink.

Her head itched. She scratched furiously before retying her scarf, which was now delightfully cool. A drop slid down her face. She caught it on her tongue, savoring it.

Learning that their return home was not going to be entirely uncomplicated, Azuki and her brother, Shota, had taken refuge with Yuta, the monk she had met on her long journey north. He was now staying in a cave at the mountain pass near their village. This was why she was chopping wood in this particular cave in the haunted Ocean of Trees that covered the mountains in this northern part of Kyushu. Shota changed from boy to sparrow to serve as a lookout and get news from the birds and animals of the forest.

When she was a girl, Azuki grew feathers on her head instead of hair. As a toki — for both she and her brother were bird-children — she was hunted for her extraordinarily valuable and beautiful orange-tipped white feathers. The soldiers would be hunting her, specifically her, as bird or as girl. Their leader, Gengoro, the brother of the late Sheriff, Genmai, who had kidnapped her and killed her parents, shared his brother’s greed for those gorgeous feathers. Gengoro challenged the claim of the newly and duly appointed Sheriff, Eitaro.

SMACK! Azuki got it just right, and the log neatly cleaved into three pieces. Cheered, she added those to her growing woodpile.

The Emperor had taken charge of the nation after centuries of shogunate rule, naming his era Meiji. That meant enlightened rule or enlightened peace. The peace part hadn’t happened yet. The Emperor’s decisive action, the fall of the shogunate, and the arrival of foreigners with their peaceful invasion meant that chaos and conflict were everywhere. Advantages went more to the bold than the enlightened.

After she escaped Genmai, Azuki fled north to live with the Japanese Crested Ibis who were her bird-kin. Shota found her there to tell her they had to go home. Their mother’s last wish, the only way they could retain their names on the official registers, claim their inheritance and live as citizens in the human world, was that they return home and prove their existence. With the help of Renko, the Dragon Princess, they arrived only to find tumult and conflict on their doorstep. They hadn’t even seen their former home!

Azuki sent a thought to Shota, asking for an update. They’d discovered they could do this mental communication even at some distance, and even if one of them wasn’t a bird. Through the long days and nights on the boat they’d sailed most of the way home, they’d experimented with their abilities. As they grew up, they discovered so many new things about their condition, most of them exciting! Azuki often wished for a bird-adult to teach them so they didn’t keep fumbling around.

Shota dove into a convenient pine tree for a tasty seed as he replied. The action is east of here, mostly. Looks like you’ll have to keep chopping wood. He laughed.

Azuki shook her head and smiled. Cheeky, that’s what Shota was. Even when he was right, he couldn’t seem to help it. Sighing, she rose and picked up the axe.

When they first talked about protecting her, Yuta had cocked his head at Azuki and asked, How would you like to be my acolyte? If we shave your feather hair, you’ll just look like another shaven-headed student monk. People will think you’re a boy. Can you choose your clothes when you turn from a toki into a girl?

Good idea! Shota interjected, taking to the air in excitement. He looped a loop, a new trick he’d picked up. No bird, no telltale feathers, and not even a girl.

I can try, Azuki replied. Her clothes were always appropriate when she changed, whether into the wrapped jacket and loose trousers she might wear for heavy work, or into her everyday kimono, either one coordinating with and somehow incorporating the colors of her natural feathers. She’d never tried to control what her feathers became — but it worked! The clothes she produced were just like the monk’s but without the accessories that marked him as a full practitioner.

Then he shaved her head, as well as his own, so it wouldn’t look like her newly shorn pate was anything but a regular part of their joint monastic life. Azuki didn’t like the feeling of air directly on her shaven scalp. She did not feel right without her feather-hair. Shaving her head meant she was stuck as a girl until her feathers grew out. She certainly didn’t want anyone around here to see her as a toki!

Go chop some wood, boy, Yuta, now Yuta-sensei, since he was Azuki’s teacher, said with a smile after examining his handiwork. I think you’ll do very well.

So here she was, chopping. She liked the exercise and feeling of accomplishment, but she was so scared she had to watch her breathing when she wielded the axe so her hands wouldn’t tremble. She’d been held prisoner not once, but twice, and the prospect of it happening again terrified her.

They were home and they had let Anko, Lord Eitaro’s daughter, know they were alive, but Anko was a teen-aged girl and might not have access to her father. Eitaro would be here, leading his troops in battle. Lady Satsuki had taken Anko and the other noncombatants to safety. Anko would need to persuade her mother to notify the registrars who would notify the Daimyo, who had ultimate authority over everybody and everything in his much larger domain. In all the chaos, would Anko even remember them?

They’re coming up the ridge, Shota warbled, as he dropped down to the outdoor seating area.

Ten minutes? The monk asked.

If that, Shota sang. Somehow, the monk seemed to understand. Shota’s parents always had, but no other full humans did, in Shota’s experience. Still, you never know until you try. He didn’t think he’d ever tried with any full human other than this comfortable man who was now acting as their guardian and teacher.

Yuta checked to make sure the fire was out and the utensils neatly stowed out of sight. A casual passerby might not even notice that someone used this place, even infrequently. Then he hurried into the cave entrance, behind the little wooden enclosed porch, well camouflaged by kudzu vines.

Aki-kun, he called, using a similar sounding name to Azuki’s, useful for either a boy or a girl. He added the ending that meant, roughly but in the friendliest way, boy. Did you hear that? Shota says they are coming.

I heard, Sensei, she replied, calling him Master or Teacher as an acolyte would. What shall I do?

What you are doing, only stack the wood quietly rather than splitting for now. If they even notice us, I will do my best to keep them outside.

Azuki wouldn’t have dared use the axe, she shook so badly at the mere thought of potential captors coming so close. She was glad for the direction, but the wood was already neatly stacked.

Noises! Outside! Azuki jumped, dropping the axe. It clanged as it struck the rock. The sound mixed in with the clanking, clattering and shouting she heard in the clearing! The soldiers were here! Panicked, Azuki wished she could crawl into a hole where nobody could ever, ever find her again.

She could, she realized. The chimney! She could climb the chimney and stay there until all this was past.

She ran to the chimney and began to climb. Chimney climbing was different from other kinds of climbing because Azuki couldn’t go straight up. The holds for her hands and feet weren’t there. Azuki would need to wedge her back against one side and her feet against the other, wiggling up just a bit at a time until she reached the top.

She wasn’t going all the way to the top, even though she knew it was well hidden. She was going to get in that chimney and hide.

Chapter Two

Mounted Archer — unknown (1878)

Shota held his breath as the soldiers charged up the hill. A few brave birds joined him on his perch in a cedar tree, but most of the birds and animals had fled or taken shelter.

All of these, pike men by the huge pointed spears they carried, had the same banner flying from poles attached to their shoulders. They were leaving! Unless this next group — no, they had the same banner. Shota squinted to read it. Names and crests were different from regular writing, which was hard enough. He made it out, but that didn’t help. The banners bore the crest of a major family, but Shota didn’t know which of the present combatants belonged to this clan group!

As the soldiers passed, Shota saw the troops’ movement was a purposeful one. They were going somewhere, not just retreating. Shota allowed his anxiety to flow over him and off him, only to be replaced by a new one: what should they do next?

A thunder of hooves announced the arrival of a mounted archer. Shota started so hard he almost fell off his branch! The archer pulled his horse to a stop, the mount wheeling and turning, its fierce eyes wide. Froth on its nose and its coat showed how hard it had been working. Should Shota try to talk to it? Did his horse friend Blackie get like that?

Come out!’ the soldier shouted, looking at the cave entrance. I see you in there! Come out!" The horse danced wildly.

I was on my way to greet you, Yuta-sensei said mildly as he emerged from the porch. I am a monk and I live here for now, he told the rider. Who are you?

Third Rider of Lord Eitaro’s Home Guard. The man’s tone softened and his horse calmed as the man perceived no threat from the monk. Shota wondered how Yuta-sensei could do that. His late father, Hachibei, had been able to do the same thing.

How fares the battle? the monk asked. Lord Eitaro’s rule has been good for the district from what I’ve seen. I would like to see him stay.

He’ll stay, all right, the soldier said, nearly bursting with bravado. "We rousted Gengoro’s troops. They retreated to await reinforcements.

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