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  • Writer's pictureRay Hadi

Brahmaloka - The Land of Brahma Reimagined


A young boy hides behind trees and bushes on a hill. He overlooks a meadow, his red eyes following a small figure dancing amongst the flowers. As he squints, he identifies long, flowing black hair, and a gold dress that shimmered in the sunlight. The girl danced so gracefully she seemed to flow like a gentle breeze. Hoping to see her face, the boy stepped closer and closer until.

Snap

His foot caught on a low branch, sending him rolling down the hill. Ouch he thought as he landed face first on the ground, but this was nothing compared to what he endured back home. Suddenly remembering the situation he was in, he bolts up and looks around frantically. A pair of curious eyes with golden irises looks at him, puzzled.

“Why’s your skin blue?”, the girl asked.

Nervous, the boy stuttered, “U-um because I’m blue?”

The girl raised an eyebrow and smiled, “Were you watching me?”

Feeling his cheeks burning the boy replied, “Uh… um… You dance very well”

Fearing the worst, the boy looked for an escape.

“I was taught by my teacher!”, she said proudly, “I can teach you how to dance!”

Huh? The boy wondered. “Um, I’m not supposed to be here”, he said.

“Why not? Come on, it'll be fun!”, the girl said cheerfully as she grabbed his hands.

Surprised, he unknowingly hardened his skin, an ability of his people.

“Woah, your hands feel like metal, cool!”, the girl said as she studied the boy’s hands.

“Um, yeah they do that…”, the boy replied awkwardly.

“Anyways, let’s start!”

The boy awkwardly maneuvered while the girl gracefully led him. After a while, he began to get used to the rhythm. Hey this isn’t too bad he thought.

The children danced until the sun began to set. Exhausted, they lay on the soft grass, panting.

“That was fun!”, the girl said happily.

The boy smiled, “Yeah, you’re a bit too hard to keep up with though”

Before the girl could answer they heard a voice shouting, “My lady, did you run off again?”. Eyes wide, the boy bolted up.

“I need to go now”, he said, eyeing where the voice came from.

The girl tilted her head and asked, “You can stay here if you want”

“No, they can’t find me, if they do…”, the boy trailed off as he began to sweat.

He turned to run away, but a hand grabbed his. “Promise you’ll come back?”, the girl asked.

Hesitating, the boy replied, “Of course”. With that, he sprinted away.

The next day, the girl waited at the same meadow. Hours passed with no sign of the boy. She got up to leave, but then heard a familiar voice. “Hey! Where are you going?”. The girl turns and breaks into a smile.

For years the two played and chatted. Although different, they formed a close bond. One day, while they strolled through the meadow at night, the girl, now of age, said, “I’m going to be married in a few months from now”. The boy, now a hardened warrior, widened his eyes. He felt a twinge of sadness, but quickly formed a smile, “That’s wonderful! I wish you all the best.”

“He’s a very kind man, if a bit overprotective.”

“I’m sure it’s out of love”, he laughed.

They walked for a while before the boy said, “I should be going now, I’ll see you again next time.”

“Okay then, I’ll see you soon!”, the girl replied happily.

But as he was about to walk away.

“Get away from her, filth!”, a young man shouted as he ran towards them, sword in hand. His golden eyes glowed with anger. He swung his sword at the boy, who barely dodged it.

“Stop! He didn’t hurt me!”, the girl yelled.

But the young man didn’t listen. “Your kind doesn’t belong here, and especially not near her”, he growled.

The boy took a defensive stance and hardened his skin, red eyes trained on the young man’s blade. “I mean no harm, please, don’t do this in front of her”

The young man dashed and swung again, his blade met the boy’s fists, and they exchanged blows. The boy expertly parried the blows, defending but not striking. Finally, he kicked the young man in the stomach, causing him to stumble backwards.

“Enough! I did nothing wrong, why do you feel the need to strike me without reason?”

The young man glared at him and said coldly, “Because your kind does not deserve to exist”

What? The boy thought as his heart sank. His memories flashed, he heard screams, smelled blood, saw his people being cut down. His red eyes began to glow, his vision turning red. “Say that again, I dare you”, he said as he placed his left foot out and leaned forward.

“Your kind raided our villages, marks of your past actions still stain our memory”, the young man said, this time taking a defensive stance, “You should all just die”.

The boy lunged forward in the blink of an eye, delivering an uppercut to the young man’s stomach. As the young man staggered, the boy delivered another blow to his face. He continued to deliver blow after blow, bloodying the young man’s face.

“Stop”, he heard a soft voice behind him. The girl looked in horror, shocked at what her friend had become. “Please, please just stop”. He ignored the girl as he continued to pummel the young man. The girl ran towards the boy and pushed him, “Enough!”. Unflinching, the boy turned towards her.

“You heard what he said, why do you still defend this idiot?”, he said, baring his teeth.

“Because he isn’t usually like this”, she said unwaveringly.

“And how would you know? Who is this man?”

“My fiancé”

Hearing those words snapped the boy back to his conscious state. He paused, unable to comprehend why she would marry a person like him.

Fiancé?

Him?

This piece of trash?

With her?

He faced the young man, and drew a dagger, cutting his finger. He took out a stone and drew a symbol on it. As the symbol began to glow he said, “People like you don’t deserve to live, and definitely not with someone like her”. The stone began to glow brighter, and he continued, looking at the full moon in the sky, “While it may take years, or even decades, on this same date, in the future, your life will wither away.”

He threw the rune towards the young man, but before it reached him, a figure with long, black hair leaped in front of him. Time seemed to slow as her brilliant golden eyes looked at the boy with a twinge of sadness which seemed to say what have you become? Unable to move, the boy watched helplessly as the glowing stone made contact with the girl.

✧ ✧ ✧

A man and woman kneel at a shrine upon a mountain, praying to the deity King Brahma. After a while, they get up, and place 33 pieces of gold and silver coins at the shrine. “Please, we beg you, grant us a child”, the man said.

The man was a high ranking minister in the Emperor’s court. He had great wealth and power, and had no material desire. The only thing he wanted was a child, but years have passed, and the couple still had no offspring. As the couple were about to leave the temple, a monk approached them.

“Ah Minister, it’s good to see you again! Praying to King Brahma for the usual I presume?”, he called.

“Good morning, Chief Monk. Yes, but unfortunately he hasn’t answered”, the Minister said sadly.

The Chief Monk frowned, “Although this isn’t my business, I can’t help but feel sorrow for the two of you. Today is the 3,333rd time you’ve visited the shrine, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right. There must be a reason King Brahma hasn’t answered. But it doesn’t matter, I’ll wait 33 years if that’s how long it’ll take”, the Minister replied.

“Your devotion to what you believe in never ceases to amaze me, Minister. But sometimes I worry that it will harm you one day”

“My devotion to King Brahma? Harm me? Nonsense”

“Not to King Brahma, but maybe… to others”

There was a pause before the Head Monk continued, “Say, Minister, if King Brahma were to grant you a child under one condition, would you accept?”

“And what would that condition be?”, the Minister asked.

“To fully devote your child to him”

Without hesitation, the Minister replied, “Of course, that would grant me a child and serve King Brahma. I see no problem.”

“Again, your devotion never ceases to amaze me”, the Chief Monk smiled as he pulled out a silver pendant, “I received this pendant during my travels, while I have no use for it, maybe you will appreciate it more.”

The Minister examined the pendant. It didn’t have a single blemish, and at its center, a round yellow gem gleamed, almost like gold. The Minister had never seen a pendant crafted so perfectly. “Thank you, but I could never take something so precious”, he shook his head.

“No, I insist, take it as a token of gratitude for visiting the shrine everyday”, the Chief Monk said as he put the pendant in the Minister’s hands.

“But Chief Monk-”

“Now now, just think of it as a lucky charm. Now go on home, climbing those 3,333 steps up here must have been exhausting, your wife seems tired”

Nodding, the Minister walked towards his wife and said, “You have my deepest gratitude, Chief Monk. Thank you for this and for always maintaining the shrine.”


That day the Minister and his wife met with the Emperor for dinner.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had dinner together, Minister. Do you still climb the mountain to pray at that old shrine everyday?”, the Emperor asked as he took a sip of saké.

“Yes it’s been a while, my lord. I still visit the shrine everyday, it’s become a habit at this point”, the Minister replied.

The Emperor laughed, “Your devotion truly is laudable, Minister. Many people in the court and the city say you’re the most loyal to King Brahma, even more than I am”

“Nonsense! You’ve built a shrine here in the city, thanks to you everyone has access to a sacred place where they can pray to King Brahma”, the Minister replied.

The Emperor laughed, “Always so quick to defend me, Minister, you’ve always been the most loyal to me. Let’s have a cheer. To the longevity of the empire, to your future child, and to King Brahma!”

That night, while the Emperor reviewed documents, his advisor entered his office. He bowed to the emperor and said, “Greetings Emperor, you seem troubled, is it because of the Minister?”. The Emperor set down the documents he held and let out a sigh, “It does trouble me that people see him as the most devoted to King Brahma. Even though I’m the Son of Heaven, and I’ve built the most beautiful shrine here in the city in his name. But those are childish insecurities, the Minister has been nothing but loyal to me”. The Advisor replied, “And what if his fame turns him against you, Emperor?”. At this the Emperor glared at the Advisor and said, “Enough, I have work to do, leave me alone”. “Very well Emperor, apologies for my intrusion”, the Advisor said as he bowed and left.

“Those people truly are fools”, he said as he left the Emperor’s building.


3 months later, the Minister’s wife was pregnant. The Minister, overjoyed, threw a parade in the city for 33 days. There was not a single person in the city who didn’t hear the news. Once his wife bore a son, he again celebrated for 3 months. As soon as his son could stand and speak, the Minister and his wife taught him the arts of war and music. The Minister trained his son to wield a sword, while his wife taught him to play the flute. While the boy was physically gifted, he struggled to learn the flute. Frustrated, he approached his mother.

“Mother, why do I need to learn the flute? Isn’t it enough if I learn how to use the sword? The flute’s so delicate, one wrong move of my finger, one wrong breath, and I ruin the song”

Smiling, his mother asked, “So then are you giving up?”

He did not answer.

She continued, “The reason your father wanted you to learn the flute was so that you would learn the delicate and precise parts of life. You can’t solve all your problems with the sword. Everything is an art, even your stances, swings, and movements when you use your blade are all arts. But if you narrow yourself to just the sword, then you narrow your mind”

The boy remained silent, contemplating.

“So then, do you still want to learn the flute? The choice is yours”

“Yes I do, please continue to teach me”

The boy continued to learn the flute, and eventually understood its techniques. He was able to separate his mindset from his sword training, and view playing the instrument as a different art. At age seven he had nearly mastered the flute, and he continued to learn both the art of the sword and music.

One day, the Minister brought his son to play the flute at the Emperor’s shrine. The boy played the flute masterfully and impressed everyone, including the Emperor himself. The Emperor was so impressed at the boy’s skill at his age that he decided to grant him the title of Chamberlain.

“Your son has incredible talent, Minister. It would be in my greatest interest to further develop his talent. As a reward for your loyalty, I’ve decided to hire the best teachers in the land to train your son”, the Emperor said.

“Thank you, my lord, that is the greatest gift anyone could give me”, the Minister said as he bowed deeply.

“It’s nothing, just think of it as something to serve King Brahma and the empire.”

✧ ✧ ✧

As time went on the boy, now known as the Chamberlain, further developed his skills with the sword, the flute, literature, and history. He studied rigorously, absorbing all that his teachers taught him. At the age of fifteen his swordsmanship rivaled that of masters, his talent with the flute was on par with that of the best musicians, and his knowledge was almost as vast as that of the oldest scholars. People of the city began calling him King Brahma’s chosen one, and his family was seen as the most favored by him. The Emperor grew increasingly jealous of the Minister’s family’s status as being blessed by King Brahma.

“Those fools, numbskulled, uneducated peasants. I have the divine right. I am the Son of Heaven. I am the chosen one”, the Emperor said, seething with rage.

“You are angry at the Minister, my lord?”, the Advisor asked.

“No… no I am not. He has never wronged me in all the years he served me. Even though I took the throne prematurely, he never tried to take my power away from me”, the Emperor replied, hand on his forehead.

“Yet here he is, taking away your title, my lord. It seems… Problematic… Does it not?”, the Advisor said calmly.

The Emperor did not reply.

“What if the people turn to his side, and see him as the Son of Heaven, instead of you? What if he becomes convinced by them, and decides to take your throne?”, the Advisor continued.

“Get to the point, what do you want, Advisor?”, the Emperor snapped.

“I merely want to get rid of your problems, my lord”

The Emperor again stayed silent, pondering the words of the Advisor.

Finally he said slowly, “Do as you wish. But… Do not touch the Chamberlain, he has served me well and never defied me.”


Months passed, and the Minister and his wife grew ill, and soon passed. The Chamberlain felt immeasurable grief, and mourned the death of his parents. Everyday, at his father’s funeral, he would play his flute. He would also climb to the shrine on the mountain to place offerings for King Brahma. He did this for seven days without fail.

On the seventh day, as the Chamberlain prayed at the shrine, a strong wind swept through the temple grounds. He opened his eyes to see violet clouds in the sky as far as the eye could see. Suddenly a man appeared behind him. He wore a crimson robe with gold accents and walked calmly towards the Chamberlain. The man placed a hand on the Chamberlain’s shoulder and said, “My son you’ve undergone such a painful ordeal, you have my deepest apologies and condolences. Your father was my most loyal follower, and you have shown the same level of devotion he did. The music you offered from your flute has swept across the Land of Brahma, and touched everyone’s hearts.” The Chamberlain, confused, asked, “You’ve come bringing violet clouds, and you speak of the Land of Brahma. Are you-”. “Yes, I am King Brahma”, the man replied. Eyes widening, the Chamberlain quickly placed his forehead on the ground and said, “I apologize for my rudeness, and that you have to see me while I am in mourning.” “At ease, Chamberlain. I came to console you. It is terrible to lose one’s parents at such a young age”, King Brahma said, shaking his head, “While I unfortunately cannot bring your parents back, I have a daughter your age. I hope she can provide you with company and comfort.” “My lord, you don’t need to do such a thing for your humble servant”, the Chamberlain said. “Do not worry, she would also benefit from having a friend her age, and learning about the world of man. Come to this shrine in eighteen days and she will arrive. Please treat her well.” With that, King Brahma disappeared as suddenly as he came, and the Chamberlain was left wondering if it was an illusion.

Eighteen days after the encounter, the Chamberlain visited the shrine, although unsure if anything would actually happen. He cleaned the shrine, lit incense, placed offerings, and kneeled. When the moon sat firmly in the sky, and the wind became still, he took out his flute and began to play. A soft melody that would touch even the coldest of hearts. Once his song finished, a gentle breeze swept through the temple. The Chamberlain breathed deeply and smelled… flowers? Suddenly petals rained from the sky onto the temple grounds, and violet clouds filled the skies. Remembering this moment, the Chamberlain prepared to greet King Brahma properly. Instead of a tall man, a girl appeared. She appeared to be the Chamberlain’s age. She wore a golden circlet adorned with jewels on her head, and a gold necklace with pearls and jade hung from her neck. She wore a black hakamashita with gold accents, a vermillion hakama, and gold sandals. She had long, dark hair, and brilliant gold eyes that mesmerized the Chamberlain, who had never seen anyone so beautiful. “I am the Princess of Brahma, daughter of King Brahma. Are you the Chamberlain my father spoke of?”, she asked. Recomposing himself, the Chamberlain replied, “Yes I am, welcome to the Land of the Reed Plains.”


The Princess and the Chamberlain sat across from each other at a table. Between them sat two cups and a pot of tea. An awkward silence was all that could be heard in the room. The Chamberlain, unsure of what to say, how to act, or what was even happening couldn’t find any words. The Princess broke the silence, “I know that your parents passed recently, you have my deepest condolences.” “Thank you, you and your father really didn’t need to visit a humble servant like me. I’m eternally grateful”, the Chamberlain said politely. The Princess smiled kindly, “Please, Chamberlain, stop with the formalities. I may come from the Land of Brahma, but I’ve come to you as an equal.” “Ah, I-I see, my apologies. Wait no sorry-”, the Chamberlain stumbled. The Princess laughed and said, “First of all, I’m guessing you have questions for me?” The Chamberlain said, “Well quite a few honestly… First of all, what’s the Land of Brahma like?” The Princess raised an eyebrow and smiled, “That’s a very broad question, but I would say it’s a very beautiful place. It has vast fields of beautiful flowers as far as the eye can see. My mother would bring me to them when I was a child, she said it was her happy place. And how about you? What tell me about the Land of the Reed Plains.”


The pair chatted for hours about their homes, and their childhoods.

“I see, so you were taught the art of the sword and flute since you were born. That’s an odd pairing”, the Princess said, perplexed.

“That’s what I thought when I was younger”, the Chamberlain laughed, “But it did help me broaden my view on life. You can’t fix everything by swinging a sword.”

“Hmm, that is a good point. My parents also made me learn magic and the art of dance as a child, two seemingly contrasting things”

“Sword and magic, flute and dance, we make an interesting pair”, the Chamberlain laughed.

“We do indeed”, the Princess smiled, “And what about now? What do you study?”

“Instead of telling you, I could show you my study”, the Chamberlain said as he stood up.

In his study, the Chamberlain taught the Princess about the subjects of humans. The history of the Land of the Reed Plains, human philosophy, alchemy, and other studies. In turn, the Princess taught the Chamberlain about the Land of Brahma. Their culture, their land, and their history. Although they came from very different lands and had just met, they had a bond and were as well-suited as duck and drake.


On a sunny afternoon the Chamberlain walked in a field of flowers. He readied his flute and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and started playing a melody. The calm music and the serene field of flowers made for a beautiful view. When he finished playing, the Chamberlain took in the view and sighed deeply. “Listening to your music in person is an entirely different experience.” The Chamberlain jumped back, surprised. Quickly looking backwards, he saw the Princess giggling. “Did I scare you?”, she asked teasingly. “I’m surprised and ashamed that you were able to do so, my masters would punish me for letting someone sneak up on me”, the Chamberlain replied, giving a slight smile. “They didn’t train you against concealment magic, and at least I’m sure your music teachers would applaud you for that performance”, the Princess said, patting the Chamberlain on the back as she walked past him. She stopped for a moment and looked across the field. The Chamberlain walked slowly to her side to see what she was thinking. Her mesmerizing aura and beauty still amazed him. While she seemed to enjoy the view, he noticed a twinge of sadness in her golden eyes, which almost seemed dimmer.

“Is there something troubling you?”, the Chamberlain asked.

The Princess sighed deeply, a look of longing on her face, “I didn’t know the Land of the Reed Plains had such beautiful flower gardens. It almost reminds me of home.”

The Chamberlain opened his mouth to comfort her, but he realized that it was in part his fault that the Princess had to stay in the land of humans.

He paused, feeling a weight on his chest, and thought for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry you have to stay here, I’m sure you would prefer to stay in the Land of Brahma.” The Princess looked at the Chamberlain with a soft smile, “I said I missed home, not that I didn’t enjoy being here. Don’t apologize.”

The Chamberlain felt the weight on his chest lift, and asked, “But then again, can you not go back as you please?”

“That’s a fair point, but I can’t, not even my father would go back and forth too often. Moving between the realms as we please would upset the balance. And besides”, the Princess looked troubled for a moment, “My father has… matters to deal with. Or, well, one matter.”

Sighing, the Chamberlain said, “So many unfortunate things happen. The existence of my people is so temporary, yet filled with so many troubles and regrets.”

“The Land of Brahma isn’t as perfect as you think it is”, the Princess said, “My mother told me a story of a friend she lost and her regrets. That taught me to cherish the people I have.”

There was a pause, the Chamberlain started to feel just how different he and the Princess were. The fact that they came from different realms never felt more true. As he dwelled in these melancholic emotions, the Princess skipped in front of him, her dress spinning as she faced him. “Just because we have past regrets doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the present”, she said, the bright sun and flowers behind her, “Won’t you play me a melody?” His face lighting up, the Chamberlain put his flute to his lips and played. The Princess danced to the music, following with the melody so smoothly it was as if she flowed with the wind. Later that day, the Chamberlain had a large garden of flowers built at his mansion.


Years passed, and the Chamberlain and the Princess spent almost every moment with each other. They had become an inseparable pair. At 18, the Chamberlain also began taking more responsibilities in the Emperor’s court, jobs that his father would have done. The two grew close, the Emperor teaching the Chamberlain things a father would have.

“You’ve been learning very quickly, Chamberlain. Your performance has been very impressive for someone so young”, the Emperor said, placing a hand on the Chamberlain’s shoulder. “Thank you, Emperor. All the things I’ve learned have been thanks to the teachers you’ve hired, I’m indebted to you”, the Chamberlain said as he bowed respectfully. The Emperor laughed, “Just as humble as your father was. Ah, I’ve also heard you’ve found a lady. I don’t think any of the noble families have a daughter like her, where is she from?” Thinking that it would be best not to reveal her origins, the Chamberlain opted to be more vague, “Ah she comes from a land quite far away, one not even on our maps.” The Emperor arched his eyebrow then laughed, “Very interesting, to think she would come to our land just for you. You must be quite the gentleman, Chamberlain. You should bring her to the festival tonight, it’s a very special occasion afterall.”

“A-ah ha ha, you jest, my lord. Hmm, that would be nice, but the festival has also increased the amount of documents I need to review, so I don’t think I’ll have the time”, the Chamberlain replied.

“That’s most unfortunate”, the Emperor frowned, “But don’t worry, there are others that can review them. Go and enjoy your youth, Chamberlain.”

“Thank you for your kindness, Emperor, but-”

“That’s a command from your Emperor, Chamberlain, now off you go”, the Emperor said as he walked away.


The Chamberlain walked with the Princess, or more accurately, the Princess walked him as she pulled his hand, wanting to explore everything the festival had to offer. She was mesmerized by the beautiful decorations and atmosphere. “Why didn’t you take me to these festivals in the past?”, the Princess asked as she furrowed her brow. “Um, we only have these when the Crimson Moon arrives”, the Chamberlain quickly replied. “Hm, I see. Oh! Let’s try some of the food!”, the Princess exclaimed, dragging the Chamberlain by the hand.

As the couple enjoyed the festival, an apparition watched them from afar. “I thought I felt a peculiar presence.” The apparition bathed in the blood colored moon, anchoring itself deeper into the realm. It followed the couple’s every move. At the sight of their closeness, it warped angrily. “There are always obstacles, but this time, I’ll be sure to eliminate them.” And with that, it dissolved.

✧ ✧ ✧

Years passed, and at the age of twenty-one, the Chamberlain and Princess were married. A large celebration, arranged by the Emperor, was held in the city for three days. All the citizens, who held the Chamberlain in great respect, wished him well.

The Emperor, seeing the Chamberlain as his own son, prepared lavish gifts for him. As he was reviewing the documents, his Advisor entered his office.

“Your Majesty”, he said as he bowed deeply, “I have information I would like to report about the Chamberlain’s wife.”

Perplexed and suspicious, the Emperor asked, “And why would that concern me?”

“I think she is the daughter of King Brahma”, the Advisor replied.

There was complete silence for a moment. Afterwards, the Emperor broke into a roar of laughter that was unbecoming of someone of his rank.

“Advisor, has time weathered your mind? That’s absolute madness. Why would King Brahma offer his own daughter to a human”, the Emperor said, recomposing himself.

“She seems… different… doesn’t she?”, the Advisor said calmly, “Even her eyes do not seem human. If you ask the Chamberlain directly, he will surely answer honestly”

Amused, the Emperor replied, “Very well, for your sake and my amusement I will ask him after he prays at the city shrine tomorrow”


At the Emperor’s invitation, the Chamberlain and the Princess prayed at the city’s shrine. They would usually visit the shrine on the mountain, the same one his parents would visit. “It is a very beautiful shrine, but I do prefer the tranquility of the mountain’s shrine”, the Princess whispered to the Chamberlain.”

After they finished their prayers, the couple dined with the Emperor.

“Ah I remember the first time I met you, Chamberlain. No one could believe such a young child could play the flute so well. It was also quite amusing to see you bolt to your mother as soon as you finished”, the Emperor laughed.

“I wish there was something that would let me see a young Chamberlain performing”, the Princess smiled mischievously at the Chamberlain, “Do you have any more stories to tell about him, your Majesty?”

As the Emperor took a sip of saké he remembered the Advisor’s words, “Speaking of stories, the Advisor said the most amusing thing yesterday: that your wife was the daughter of King Brahma.”

At that the Chamberlain and the Princess looked at each other. The sudden words of the Emperor shocked them. There was silence for a while, which did not go unnoticed by the Emperor. Understanding their predicament, the couple silently agreed to explain their story to the Emperor.


Drunk and enraged, the Emperor sat alone in his office, contemplating their story. That’s absurd, are they lying to me? No, that's impossible, the Chamberlain would never do such a thing. But why would King Brahma give his daughter to a human? Why him? As those thoughts gripped the Emperor’s mind, the Advisor entered his office. “The truth has been revealed, I presume?”, he asked. “I am the Son of Heaven. I hold the entire world at my fingertips. Yet why, why does King Brahma not take me as his son-in-law?”, the Emperor said, seething with anger. “A most peculiar decision indeed, my lord. But all things can be fixed”, the Advisor said with a sly smile. The Emperor, blinded by rage, said without hesitation, “Do whatever you see fit. She will be mine.”


A week later, the Chamberlain was summoned to the palace. The Advisor greeted him and read an imperial edict, “Your wife has been found guilty of heresy, for she has offended the heavenly shrine our great Emperor has built. She is to serve him for seven days at the palace. If she cannot, then bring a kalavinka and peacock, and have them dance at the palace. Should neither of these conditions be fulfilled, you will be exiled.” Emotions rushed through the Chamberlain’s mind. Panicked, distraught, and confused, the Chamberlain struggled to find the words to answer the Advisor. Finally composing himself, he answered, “Very well.” As he turned to leave the palace, he could have sworn he saw a flash of blood in the Advisor’s eyes.


The Chamberlain hurried home and told his wife about what had happened, and she pondered the matter. “This is so sudden, has the Emperor’s true colors surfaced…”, she said, understanding that the Chamberlain held the Emperor in high regard. “I know, but if it’s a royal edict, I cannot disobey it”, the Chamberlain sighed, “A peacock I can obtain from faraway lands, but a kalavinka…” “My father once took me to a place where kalavinka roamed. I can take us there, but capturing them is another matter”, the Princess said as she rested her chin on her hands. After thinking for a while, she sprang up, “Follow me, and bring your flute.” The Princess drew symbols in a circle surrounding her and the Chamberlain. Once she finished, the symbols glowed brightly, and there was a flash of light.

When he opened his eyes, the Chamberlain saw a vast forest, with strange flowers and plants. “Come with me”, the Princess said as she took the Chamberlain’s hand. They walked through odd plants until they reached a bush, where the Princess signaled for him to stay silent. As they peered over the bush, they saw the kalavinka. The Chamberlain was at a loss for words as he saw the strange bird. It had long red tail feathers, body with gleaming orange feathers, and most surprising of all, a human head. “Okay, so”, the Princess whispered, keeping her eyes on the kalavinka, “I want you to lure it with the music from your flute. I’ll conceal you and prepare for our exit.” The Chamberlain nodded and readied his flute. Once the Princess gave him the signal, he stepped forward from the bush and began to play his flute. The kalavinka reared its head and tilted it. While the Chamberlain was unsettled by the sight of a human head on a bird’s body, he kept himself steady. As the kalavinka began to approach him, he stepped back slowly. “Wait, slow down, I’m not done yet”, the Princess told him. The Chamberlain obeyed, slowing down his pace and his tune. After a while the Princess had drawn similar symbols on the ground, and the Chamberlain lured the kalavinka into the circle. Once they were transported to the mansion, the Princess put the kalavinka into a deep sleep. The Chamberlain had a peacock brought to the palace along with the kalavinka.

The Emperor looked in disbelief at the two exotic birds dancing in his court. But nonetheless, the Chamberlain had passed his first demand.


Twenty days after the peacock and kalavinka were placed in the palace, the Chamberlain was summoned once again. The Advisor again read the royal edict, “The Emperor orders you to summon the Tenth Daughter of the Demon King to attend to him for seven days. Should you fail to do so, your wife must take her place, and you will be exiled.”


The Chamberlain relayed the message to his wife, “This is such a humiliating task. Why does he need the Tenth Daughter of the Demon King, and how am I supposed to contact her?” The Princess smiled and said, “The Emperor does not know my father well. The Demon King is an emissary of my father, and I have known his Tenth Daughter since we were children. Do not worry, she will definitely come to help us.” With that, the Princess contacted her old friend and told her about the situation. “Does the Land of the Reed Plains really have such a perverse ruler?”, the Tenth Daughter said as she shook her head, “Not to worry, I will help.” The Chamberlain brought the Tenth Daughter to the palace and presented her to the Emperor. The Emperor, upon seeing the Tenth Daughter, wanted to have her hand in marriage. But as days went by, they exchanged no words. She moved across the palace like a phantom, and once the seven days had passed, the Tenth Daughter disappeared. The Emperor, greatly displeased, wanted to have the Princess as his own even more. Even so, the Chamberlain had passed his second demand.

Again, the Chamberlain was summoned to the palace, and the Advisor read the royal edict, “The Tenth Daughter enchanted me, and her memory echoes in my mind. With her gone, I feel empty. To bring me peace of mind, summon the Thunder God to echo at the palace for seven days.”


The Chamberlain returned home bearing an exasperated expression. The Princess, seeing her husband distraught, sat down with him and asked, “Well, tell me what the Emperor’s demand is now.” The Chamberlain told his wife about the third demand and asked, “And so, my brilliant wife, what shall I do this time?” “I do appreciate the trust”, the Princess smirked, “The Thunder Gods dwell in Mount Atago. They are the Eight Great Naga Kings, let’s pay them a visit.” “Can’t you transport us there with your runes?”, the Chamberlain asked. “That only works with places I’ve been to, and I’ve never been to Mount Atago.” So the couple hiked up the mountain to the Naga Kings’ dwelling. Once they arrived, they were greeted by the Naga King Nanda. “It’s been some time since people have come here, what do you need?”, he asked in a booming voice. The Princess stepped forward and said, “There is a perverse Emperor in the Land of the Reed plains, he wants to take me away from my husband and exile him. He has also made light of you Great Naga Kings, asking for my husband to bring you to him to console his heart.” “What?”, the Naga King’s voice echoed, “Such disgusting impertinence. Very well, we will go to the palace.”

And so the Naga Kings swirled into a black cloud and headed towards the palace. There they made the sound of great thunder, which rattled the very bones of everyone in the palace. The Emperor, thinking he could handle the noise for seven days, tried to keep himself composed. But as each passing day felt like entire months, he too succumbed to the noise and collapsed. The Chamberlain, with a pendant given to him from the Princess, was unaffected by the noise, and called out to the Naga Kings, “Great Naga Kings, I thank you for your help, I think this much will be sufficient.” The Naga Kings then dispersed and returned to Mount Atago.


Some time after the Naga Kings had left, the Emperor and the Advisor discussed in his office. “How has he passed every demand so easily?”, the Emperor said, frustrated. The Advisor narrowed his eyes, “I believe the Princess has been helping him. Without her he is sure to fail.” “And? How do we separate them?”, the Emperor demanded. “I have an idea, at ease, your Majesty”, the Advisor replied, with a devious smile.


Fifty days after the last demand, the Chamberlain was once again summoned to the palace. “Your ability to see each demand through is truly laudable. However, since the Naga Kings did not fulfill their duty for seven days, you have failed the last demand. As compensation, you are to present the Imprimatur of King Brahma to the Emperor”, the Advisor read. What? Exasperated, the Chamberlain opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off by the Advisor, who continued. “If fail to do so, you will be exiled, and your wife will serve the Emperor.” Frustrated but without a choice, the Chamberlain agreed, and went home.


“You agreed to what?”, the Princess said in shock. “It’s as I’ve told you. Would you rather have me break my vow?”, the Chamberlain asked. “No, in the Land of Brahma once a vow is made, we do not break it”, thinking for a moment, the Princess let out a frustrated sigh, “These fools of the Reed Plains are so cruel they might as well not be human. And you. Why did you have to accept such an impossible demand?” “It was either that or I would be exiled and you would have to serve the Emperor. I would rather die than let that happen”, the Chamberlain replied calmly. Tears forming in her eyes, the Princess sat down and said, “Since I’m bound to you now, it would disturb the balance of nature even more if I were to return to the Land of Brahma. How will you manage without me?” Seeing his wife crying struck the Chamberlain’s heart with sorrow. He sat beside her and consoled her, “I will be fine, is there a way for me to travel to the Land of Brahma?” “There is a way, but it’s incredibly risky”, the Princess replied, face buried in her hands. The Chamberlain embraced his wife and said, “I will come back to you safely, I swear it. We will live a normal life after all this nonsense is over.” The Princess looked at him with her brilliant golden eyes. He felt them pierce through his very soul as she asked him, “Is that another vow?” “Yes it is”, the Chamberlain replied confidently. “Very well then, first you’ll need to purify yourself before you can enter the Land of Brahma. Refrain from eating meat for seven days, and bathe in ice seven times a day.”

Before he left, the Chamberlain held his wife in a long embrace, and she gave him a charm. He stood at a road which branched out into 6 paths. He remembered the Princess’s words, “Follow the Northwest path. After a while, you will find a tree with three horses, pick the thinnest horse and feed it three thousand gold coins.” He walked the narrow path until his vision was obscured by fog. While his lack of vision alarmed him, he trusted his wife and continued down the path. Finally, he reached the tree with three horses. As he was told, he picked the white horse, the thinnest of the three, and fed it three thousand gold coins. He again recalled the Princess’s instructions, “Mount the horse, and wait for it to shake and paw the ground. Once it does, close your eyes and under no circumstances should you open your eyes. Only once the horse shakes again can you open your eyes.” The Chamberlain mounted the horse, and as it shook itself and pawed the ground, he shut his eyes.

After a while, the Chamberlain started hearing voices telling him to open his eyes. He heard disturbing sounds, the sounds of tigers, the sound of burning grass, and distant screams. But with steadfast determination, he did not even peek.

More time passed, and the Chamberlain suddenly felt a great pain in his chest. The pain spread to his entire body. He felt as if he was burning. He felt his body getting weaker, as if his very soul was being pulled away. Just as he was about to let go, he remembered his vow to the Princess, and he tightened his grip.

Finally, the horse shook itself, and the Chamberlain opened his eyes. He saw a vast, beautiful land with fields of flowers more beautiful than those in the Land of the Reed Plains. The horse walked a short distance before nymphs wearing jewelries of gold, pearls, and jade approached him. “King Brahma’s son-in-law! Your visit is surprising but most welcome, what is the purpose of your visit?”, they asked. The Chamberlain explained his situation to the nymphs, and they agreed to let him into the palace.

The palace gates were made of gold and silver, and gold sand surrounded it. Once inside, he was mesmerized by the precious stones that decorated the palace’s interior. Pillars of lapis lazuli, floors, stairs, verandas, and towers of jade. The nymphs lead him to a Japanese-styled building within a wide courtyard. They served him tea and rice and requested that he wait for King Brahma. As the Chamberlain ate and drank, a frail figure approached him, bound by chains. “P-please sir, spare me some food”, the figure said in almost a whisper. A slave to his compassion, the Chamberlain gave the man his rice. “Please! Eat up, what happened to you?”, he asked. Instead of an answer, the frail man grabbed the rice, wolfed it down, and smashed his chains. He grew larger, and his skin slowly turned dark blue. The man looked at the Chamberlain with his red eyes and said, “Thank you Chamberlain, you fool.” He then summoned a storm and disappeared.

Just then, King Brahma emerged from the golden gates and approached the Chamberlain. “My son, it is good to see you again. I have heard about your circumstances and have prepared my imprimatur”, King Brahma said, presenting a golden sheet. Upon seeing the broken chains, his expression darkened, “Chamberlain, what has happened here?” Still startled by the storm, the Chamberlain explained what had happened.

After listening, King Brahma’s expression became even darker, “Your kindness knows no bounds, Chamberlain. But that prisoner was Haramon, King of the Rakshasa. He was imprisoned for trying to kidnap my daughter and… other past actions.”

Hearing this, the Chamberlain fell to the ground in grief, “So that means… He will try to…?”

The great King nodded his head solemnly, “And that rice is no ordinary grain, it gives the consumer superhuman strength.”

“But I don’t feel any different”, the Chamberlain said, looking at his hands, “If I had that strength I could save her…”

“It could be because you are human, I’m sorry.”

Waves of dread filled the Chamberlain’s mind.

“King Brahma, thank you for this. Apologize for my short visit, I hope we can meet again under different circumstances. And.. I’m sorry”, the Chamberlain said as he rushed off, holding back tears.

“Chamberlain, wait!”, King Brahma called out, “This does not mean you should sacrifice your kindness, remember that. And please, save my daughter.”


The Chamberlain returned to his mansion, mounting the white horse.

He rushed into his home and called out, “Princess? Are you there? Princess?” No answer.

He looked around the rooms for her. Nothing.

He entered the library, there he saw her favorite seat, still with her pillow and old robes. But she was nowhere to be found.

Finally, he entered the garden he built for his wife. But there were only flowers.

Defeated, he broke down into tears, mourning his wife, and his actions.

That night he could not sleep. Although his eyes were dry and heavy, his body exhausted, his mind could only think of the Princess.

The next day he visited the shrine on the mountain and prayed. As he wept, the Chief Monk approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder, “What is wrong my child?” Wiping his tears away, the Chamberlain said, “I have lost the most important person in my life because of my foolish actions.” “Hmm… Nothing is truly lost, Chamberlain, not even in this transient realm. We keep a piece of all those precious to us”, the Chief Monk said softly. In that moment, the Chamberlain realized. He took the Princess’s charm from his pocket. Suddenly he felt as if his senses were heightened. He saw a golden thread leading to a far off place. Desperate to follow any leads, he bid the Chief Monk farewell, and followed the thread.

Following the thread, the Chamberlain took a boat and sailed towards unknown lands. After hours of seemingly endless sailing, a great fog surrounded him. To calm his nerves, he started playing his flute. His music spread across the empty waters far and wide. A while later, he noticed that his music was echoing. He continued to sail, hoping to see land. The fog cleared, and he could see a figure in the distance. As he drew closer, he felt a chill run down his spine as he could make out the features of the man. He was extremely tall, almost three meters, with gray skin and blood red eyes. Preparing his sword, the Chamberlain anchored his boat and walked ashore. “Your music was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard”, the giant said as he wiped tears from his eyes, “Who are you, stranger?” “I am just a humble ascetic who plays the flute, kind sir. Please enlighten me, where have I landed?”, the Chamberlain asked cautiously. “You are in the Land of Rakshasa, sir ascetic”, the giant replied. The Chamberlain felt fear, as he was in man-eater lands, but relieved since there was still hope he could find the Princess. “I’ve come to play for the great King Haramon, would you happen to know where I can find him?”, he asked the Rakshasa. “Ah that is an easy task, my daughter serves the Princess he has recently brought back. You’ve come at the perfect time, they are currently making preparations to honor the anniversary of the Princess’s mother’s passing. Your music will surely bring them peace, allow me to escort you.”

As the Chamberlain met King Haramon, his feet grew cold out of fear that he would recognize him. The Princess’s charm seemed to warm up, but he passed it off as a delusion. In the Rakshasa King’s presence, the Chamberlain played his flute, the first song he played when he met the Princess. Charmed, King Haramon said, “This music is reminiscent of the Land of the Reed Plains. Play this for my Empress, this will console her troubled heart.” Upon hearing the words “my Empress”, the Chamberlain felt anger wash over him, but he suppressed his emotions and answered, “As you wish, great King.”

The Princess sat by her window, her expression filled with despair and longing. As she was about to get up, she heard music. Listening closer, she recognized the tune. Could it be? No it can’t be… Is it? She looked out the window to see a man in shabby robes. But she saw through her concealment magic, and recognized the Chamberlain. Her eyes immediately lit up, and her expression brightened. She quickly ordered her servants, “The ascetic must be cold, it would be rude to leave him out there. Bring him here at once.”

The Chamberlain was brought to the Princess’s chambers where he continued to play his flute. The Princess was beyond happy, but she looked at the servants that guarded her. She poured saké into several cups and gave them to her servants. “You have treated me well during my stay here. Please, drink with me as we enjoy this music.” Her servants did as they were told, and were soon drunk. The Princess enchanted them into a deep slumber. Once she was sure they were asleep, she ran to the Chamberlain and hugged him. The Chamberlain and the Princess embraced each other silently, as no words could describe how happy they were. After a while, the Princess said, “Most of the palace, including King Haramon should be asleep by now. Let’s go.”

They sneaked cautiously across the palace grounds. Eventually they stopped at an open field, with large carriages. “These chariots can get us out of here”, the Princess said as she inspected a chariot. Motioning for the Chamberlain to follow her, the pair mounted the chariot. Relieved, they started it, and it began to fly.


But then. CRASH. The chariot crashed into the ground, and a large figure grabbed the Chamberlain and threw him across the field. “Fool, one does not simply escape my domain”, King Haramon said, glowering as his eyes burned blood red. “You may have completed those demands seamlessly, Chamberlain, but now you are in my land. You have no power here”, he continued, approaching the Chamberlain who was now on his feet. The Chamberlain drew his blade and asked, “You speak as if you know me. Have we met?” “Many times, actually. You could say that I’m the reason you’re in this situation”, the Rakshasa smiled deviously.

The Chamberlain recognized the expression, “Advisor? But how? You were imprisoned in the Land of Brahma.”

“You humans know little of the laws of the world, I that was my spirit, an apparition of me. Formed from a deep rooted vengefulness.”

“How is that even possible?” “You underestimate the strength of emotion, Chamberlain.”

The Rakshasa charged, and quickly aimed a punch at the Chamberlain. He barely parried the strike, and the force weakened his arms. King Haramon sent blow after blow, and while the Chamberlain blocked them all, he could feel his strength failing. Finally, a fist landed on his abdomen, which sent him flying. “So fragile, so weak, just like that bastard from decades ago”, King Haramon seethed, “Has anyone ever wanted your head just because of what you were born as, boy?” Another blow was delivered to the Chamberlain, which he narrowly avoided. “Have you ever had someone so precious to you taken away by the worst person imaginable?” Another punch, this time too swift for the Chamberlain to dodge. He felt extreme agony as his ribs cracked against the force.

The Princess, who had been preparing runes, saw the Chamberlain bloodied and bruised. In a fit of rage she yelled, “Stop it you brute!” This caught the attention of King Haramon, who walked towards her. “My mother told me stories about you, I didn’t expect you to be such a barbarian”, she said boldly, “What have you become?” Hearing those words, repressed memories flooded the Rakshasa King’s mind. “I see… That’s right… I killed her”, he said in sorrow, “I lost her to your father.” King Haramon was in a state of vulnerability, yet neither the Princess nor the Chamberlain could make a move. “Your remind me so much of your mother, Princess”, he said sadly. Then in the next instance, he dashed towards the Princess, “If I cannot have you too, then no one can.”

Time seemed to slow as the Chamberlain witnessed what was happening. No… No! Stop! He laid helplessly, unable to move. As the Rakshasa drew closer to the Princess, his mind flashed to his vow to the Princess. An unknown strength filling him, the Chamberlain got up, and sprinted towards King Haramon. In the blink of an eye, he slashed at the his legs, causing the giant to fall with a loud thud. King Haramon looked behind him, and his eyes widened. The Chamberlain’s eyes had a golden glow, and although he was still bloodied, he stood firm. “I… Made… A vow…”, he said panting. The Princess quickly bound King Haramon, and revealed the circle of runes below him. The Rakshasa understood that he had lost, and resigned to his fate, “The two of you truly are a perfect pair, I admit defeat.” “I will be sending you back to my father’s realm. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for his past actions”, the Princess said sincerely. “You are as kind as your mother, Princess”, he smiled sadly. He then looked towards the Chamberlain, “Treat her well, boy. And remember, past actions, be it yours or others, does not dictate your future. But do learn from them.” And with that, the fearsome King Haramon was sent back into the Land of Brahma.

Relieved, the Princess ran towards the Chamberlain. The two embraced each other. “So, can you get us back home?”, the Chamberlain asked the Princess teasingly. “Yes, I do, leave it to me”, she replied as she helped him up onto the chariot. “Wait, why don’t we just use your runes?”, the Chamberlain asked as he furrowed his brow. “Now, where’s the fun in that?”, the Princess answered gleefully.


THE END




Sources:

Story: The Land of Brahma (from Otogizōshi [Erin Brightwell, trans.], i.e., Tales of Tears and Laughter.)


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