I decided to wake Venora up in a very special way. The sun had just set as I snuck out of the room we had rented, and my footsteps were quieted on the soft floors. It only took a moment to reach my destination as I had seen the vendor the night previous. Smiling, gold passed to the merchant and I snuck my way back beside her.
Licking my lips, I brought the flute up and began to play.
The music drifted throughout the room, gradually stirring her awake. The blanket slipped from her body as she sat up. Gazing at me with the purest of love. It wasn’t for a few moments however, that the other half of the surprise revealed itself. My father, my actual father, joined in with his own instrument from outside the room. Together, we played for Venora. Our music coaxing her imagination and emotions to their full potential.
It was no coincidence that my father was here. This was, after all, his inn. And he was eager to meet the young woman from Skara Brae who had ensnared the heart of his youngest son. I kissed her softly on my way out, leaving her sitting there to get dressed with a solitary tear sliding down her cheek.
She joined us several moments later, gracefully seeming to glide across the room to settle upon her knees beside me at the table. I smiled to myself, here a day. . . and she has already begun incorporating our two cultures into one. A clink brought us back to reality as my father set his cup down, hands folding under the sleeves of the kimono he wore.
“Isonu…” He began and abruptly paused, as if unsure how to carry on. “How much have you told this young woman of your family?”
It was my turn to pause before answering, I could feel Venoras stare upon my face. A moment passed, and her hand crept into mine. Squeezing reassuringly.
“Not much father. Of the history of our family, barely anything.”
He chuckled, pushing himself to his feet with his cane as he did so. “Typical of you my son. Your brothers are great Samurai for the Empress. But you, are so unlike them. Samurai, yes. You are that.” He turned, his smile kind. “But you are the gentlest of my four sons. And for that, I am grateful.”
He turned to Venora, and took her hand in his own. Speaking softly to her, yet his words seemed magnified for it.
“In Tokuno… The strongest Samurai and other nobles choose the best women as wives. I am glad my son has found such a treasure in you. Keep him safe, his kindness leads him into danger.”
“Father…” I began, a complaining tone to my voice,”That’s hardly fair, when has it gotten me into trouble?”
He exchanged a look with Venora. One which I now know means “Really?” back in Britannia.
He smiled once more to her. “When Isonu was but a small child, 5 summers or so, he accidentally set fire to a nearby pavilion. It was his mothers birthday, and he had prepared a celebration for her.” Sitting once again, he continued addressing Venora. “Candles, some Sake he obtained from his eldest brother, and traveling dancer to perform for his mother as she relaxed. He knocked the candle over into an oil lamp.” My father laughed, and soon Venoras laughter joined his.
“Thank you father… Really… Thank you.”
“Oh Isonu, laughter lets you live longer. Remember your mothers words.”
Venora could not hide her smile as I sighed in resignation.
” Yes father… I know.”
“Show her around my son, if she is to become your wife one day, she should know our history.” With that, my father left us and returned once more to the garden outside.
And so, the next hours were devoted to showing Venora my families house.
The armor of my great grandfather, rent and torn as he fell defending the Empress at that time from a Ninja clan devoted to seizing power. His Katana, blessed in sacred waters at his funeral.
The family tree came next. A tapestry covering one half an entire wall. Going back countless generations. A picture of my father beside his name, showing him as he was when I was but a child. A touch of sadness entered my heart as I compared it to his present self.
But most of all, Venora was captivated by a map hanging in the corner. A map of the Tokuno Isles.
“Isonu, are we really going to see each island?” She relaxed against me. As I embraced her, I smiled.
“Yes. One by one until no mystery is left to the pair of us. I want you to see the beauty of my home. And afterwards, we will explore the beauty of yours. And then Malas. And Ter Mur and all the rest until we’ve been everywhere together.”
The clouds drifted away from the moon. Casting us in silvery light as our lips met. One more night of relaxation and quiet in Zento. The next, we would take a step into the mysterious lands of Tokuno.