Funfact: When Europe was still actively interacting with Japan, the way they took to get there was to hop from Spain to Mexico, hop across Mexico, then on to various islands and such in the Pacific, to the Philippines, and then North to Japan. Any way which didn't involve going around the southern tip of Africa was much preferred.
Funfact: There is actually a place in Spain where the surname 'Japon,' is a remnant of this one diplomatic party's descendants in the region. So there's that.
Funfact: When someone gives you tea, you should take it with both hands rather than just one.
Without further ado,
Jerome Snow had gotten used to getting off and on planes in the last year or so. The inheritance from his grandfather's estate had provided him the funds to start a search into his family's genealogy—something his grandfather had never had the funds to do until he was too old to actually do it. His dream had fallen to Jerome, who didn't mind the weight of it. His journey had taken him to New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Peru, and Spain so far. He had learned passable Spanish and even a few smatterings of words in native languages. Some people were interested in meeting him, of realizing that he was their something-something-removed cousin, while others had been ambivalent. He kept a journal of his experiences, dedicating each passage as a letter to his grandfather.
He had learned how to properly decipher writing in such a way as he could now guess where to look next in the archives, guess at which documents he needed to see. It was well worth the effort, he'd found, until he'd hit a dead end in Spain. He reached the end of the remaining archives for one branch of the family, leaving only a curiously foreign branch to occupy his time. Tomás Uchijua and his wife Luisa had arrived in Spain in 1660 from Japan of all places. Jerome had stared at the page which spelled out their country of origin in clear, concise letters— Tomás y Luisa Uchijua de Fuchimi de Japon, 1660. Tomás had made a good life for himself, being awarded a decent plot of land in Asturias and left to his own devices to raise a family with his wife. One son went to the clergy, another to Madrid to serve the King—later being sent to the New World on the King's behalf—and a daughter was later married to a local lord.
But it remained that the family line in Spain ended at Tomás and Luisa, which meant that there was only one thing left to do, which was follow the trail to Japan, but only first after doing some research about why Tomas and Luisa would have travelled to Spain at all. They'd been found by a boat-load of Franciscans on their way to try to revitalize the mission-presence in Japan after a massive government crackdown on foreign religions. They had barely escaped with their lives, according to the statement attached to their family records. It looked like it had taken two years for them to arrive safely in Spain, by which time they had learned Spanish and Latin and were ready to settle in.
Knowledge that there was still a trail unsettled Jerome's nerves and ate at his curiosity—Grandfather would have adored this finding—which was why he was getting off a plane now—in Tokyo. There were perhaps a few remaining records about the Uchijua family in the region they'd come from, Fuchimi. Jerome didn't have much to go on, but he had to try.
He had planned to spend a few weeks in Tokyo, with a translator working on the documents. The need to know far outstripped his patience with learning a third language at this point—he would learn it should his research prove fruitful, he promised himself.
What he found was that a major sting on underground Christians had occurred in Fujimi in the fall of 1657, as well as a round-up of related families in several other major cities or regions. What was outstanding from all of this was that Uchiwa Shisui and his wife Rin seemed to have escaped or died in a fire the following spring. This lined up strikingly well with what Jerome had found out in Spain, that a Japanese couple bearing a similar surname had barely escaped with their lives to Europe. The translator, a woman named Shiori, suggested they go to Fujimi to further investigate—they could stay with her aunt and uncle, who ran a ryokan out of their old family house. It was a pleasant coincidence, as Jerome was growing a bit fond of her. She had an excitement in her eyes when she spoke that he found desirable.
The small compound was shaded by a stand of maple trees, which Shiori said had grown there for hundreds of years. Each time one died, another was planted because a demoness once offered to bless the family twice over for every maple living on the grounds. There were rice fields stretching all around the ryokan, with a large garden behind the main house. Shiori's aunt and uncle were most accommodating to the sudden visit, letting Jerome sleep in one of the outer buildings with a few rooms to himself.
They arrived on a Friday, which was the start of a local holiday, leaving the library and its archives closed until Tuesday the following week. Jerome had privately bemoaned this while Shiori had left him to his own devices—she had to run some errands for her relatives as well as pick up groceries for the family among other things. While she was gone, he passed the time by speaking with the little grandma who sat happily outside on the wrap-around porch. She was the mother of Shiori's uncle and was well into her eighties, but her English was suspiciously good. She had lived in Britain for several years, while her husband had studied there, she said.
"But he was Hatake, and they always come back here. It is in their blood, and they all know it—even if they try to escape it. Even Shiori-chan, she finds herself coming back here despite living in the city. It's the demon blood, I think—they are stronger when they are near the lands that the demon woman blessed, and among people who share her as an ancestor."
"Excuse me—demon woman?"
The little old woman smiled and patted his hand before pouring them both some tea from the little pot which was left at her side. Her hands were expert as she handed the cup to him, bringing up his free hand to help him accept the cup. All around them, birds chirruped and called out every so often in the warm spring air. Jerome felt that unsettled bit of nerves in his stomach relaxing, as though he was home somehow.
"Yes, a demon woman married one of the Hatake family heads long ago. She saved his life from a band of wandering demons and ogres, and to repay her he asked her to marry him. The demon woman gave the family prosperity and respect, and gave up her immortality to become human and bear him two sons and a daughter—my husband kept the old koseki records, as well as some other things if you would like to see them?"
With nothing else to do, Jerome could hardly say 'no.' He was starting to pick up a few things in Japanese, but he hardly knew enough to survive even—which meant that he was getting no work done until Shiori returned—and he didn't mind allowing this little old woman to tell him about her family. About Shiori's family. He genuinely liked her, and was starting to hope that she might feel the same way.
They went back into the house, sliding panel doors with white paper in them, and went into a cool little room with an imposing cabinet dominating it. There was almost nothing else in the room, but Emi, as she introduced herself as, knelt in front of the cabinet and opened it. Jerome saw nothing else to do except sit down next to her, cross-legged and attentive—ready to learn, ready to dedicate another entry in his journal to his grandfather who would have been thrilled twice-over by this development.
"This," she said, turning around and gently setting a wooden box between them, "is the box that the demon woman kept her papers in. She ran her household out of this box, but we keep her things in it these days." Emi opened the box delicately, taking out a few trinkets and laying them on the ground. At the bottom was a frail looking silk scroll. The old woman rolled it out with utmost care, allowing Jerome to see it properly.
The painting was executed softly, the hard lines that he expected were not in presence, and depicted a man and woman sitting on a porch disturbingly similar to the one he and Emi had just left. The man had a shock of silver hair, sitting with his leg propped up, his arm resting on the raised knee. Leaning back against him was a woman with delicate pink hair and large green eyes. Her hands were folded on her lap while Jerome got the impression that the man had his other hand at her waist or hip. They were dressed nicely in formal clothing, the woman's hair was done up beautifully while the man's struggled to escape its topknot.
"This is Hatake Kakashi, and his wife, the demon woman Sakura." Jerome stared at the painting for a little longer, in utter disbelief until he noticed the lock of hair pinned to the bottom of the painting. A thick lock of hair, straight and brittle with age and bound at one end with a clump of wax, was attached to the page. The hair was strawberry blonde, a color which Jerome was tempted to call pink more than anything else. His stay in Japan, it seemed, was going to be rather longer than he'd planned on. It didn't matter, suddenly, whether or not he found anything about the Uchiwa family in Fujimi, he suddenly wanted much more desperately to know how a red head had found her way to rural Japan three hundred years ago.
He couldn't wait to badger Shiori about her family, even if it made her not like him anymore it was far too fascinating to give up.
"There is also, in the papers we have, a family biography that was written down a few generations after the demon woman came to be Hatake Kakashi's wife, if you'd like to see it?"
Jerome later found, on a second research journey to Tokyo, that the box which housed the ancient documents was in a style only seen in Edo in the latter half of the seventeenth century, in the family houses of a few highly placed retainers of the shogun. There was also an entire series of erotic books published which contained within them art which was strikingly similar to the style of art found in the painting Emi had showed him. He, of course, made sure to look up all he could on the Uchiwa but most of his attention was turned towards the Hatake family. It was just as well, anyway, because many records of the Uchiwa had been destroyed after their mass arrests.
Most of the early history of the Hatake was recorded by family head named Daichi in the mid-1720s. The man had extrapolated from notes on the family koseki, as well as a few interviews with his remaining elders. The family had been poor until Hatake Kakashi had married a woman whose family claimed they were merchants, only for him to find out that they were really demons—luckily for Kakashi, Daichi noted, they weren't interested in eating him—after Kakashi saved the life of his intended bride. In return for his hand in marriage, the demon woman and her family promised to bless the Hatake if a maple tree was planted on the grounds.
The story that Emi had told him of was really as close to the truth as he could get, because the girl's family had been of the merchant class and therefore not forced to keep records of their lineage. It burned Jerome a little to not truly know where the woman's pink hair had come from, but he knew that it would just lead him away from Japan and back to Europe—and away from Shiori, and the relationship they had been tentatively forming over the last few months.
In the end, he decided to stay with Shiori. Looking out at the fields every morning comforted him, allowing him to almost see—out of the corner of his eye it seemed—a white haired man and a pink haired woman working side by side out in the rice. There were centuries between then and now, and many—more than he liked to think—generations, but sometimes, just sometimes, Jerome could see them.
The Samurai and the Oni Girl.
Alright, my dear readers, that is the end. After nearly 18 months and 35 chapters, that is the end. I'd like to take a moment to thank my reviewers, both the frequenters (Prescripto, Angel897, InARealPickle, Kagomaru, Skie, VelvetGreen, Princess Ren, LM Frick, The Red Courage, UzzleCue, and many others), as well as the reviewers who supported me and extrapolated wildly about my plot—something which I singularly enjoy. Yes, I'm looking at you, HistoryHound.
But I also want to thank all of the people who have read but not necessarily reviewed. This story, as I'm writing this, has topped 50,000 views and has over 400 reviews to its name. That couldn't have happened just because of the dozen people I mentioned above—every review has been wonderful to get for different reasons. The returners because it's like my chapter and their review serve as a dialog between two people, and the one-shot reviewers because they felt moved enough to tell me so.
I've loved all of it, I really have. I've mentioned before that I never set out, really, to write an epic and trust me, getting into the 100,000 word club puts this story into the "Epic," range in my mind. I hope to maybe write another, but for now I think I will retreat to my one-shots if all of you don't mind :p
That being said, without all of your support and love for this story, this wouldn't have ever happened. So thank you for making it happen. Thank you bunches :)
I will be keeping the OniOnna blog up on tumblr for the foreseeable future. I did way too much research to want to abandon it now, and it is a nice resource, I think, for a certain slice of Japanese culture.
Well, not much more to say…from both me and my beta, BossladyRiver, let me say once again how deeply thankful we are to have collaborated on this with all of your support and love of the story. I hope to hear from all of you in the future on future writing projects, or even just one last time on this one.