Suzume lived a life of luxury until her mother betrayed Suzume’s father, the emperor. As punishment for her mother’s sins, Suzume is sent to the remote temple complex high in the mountains where she is expected to be trained as a priestess serving the God of the mountain. However, during her initiate ceremony she accidentally awakens the long slumbering god, but to the high priestess surprise, he is no god, but a sleeping dragon. Once the dragon Kaito is unleashed from his slumber, he wants to get his revenge from the woman who sealed him away. As his newest ‘servant’ he chooses Suzume to join him on his journey. Suzume must help the dragon find this woman before the next spring solstice or be eaten alive by the dragon. Along the way, the pair will discover that death is only the beginning and that love can often reach across time.
Sweat rolled down her neck before sliding down her spine and pooling at the basin of her lower back. She resisted the urge to itch a tickle near her nose, lest she smear the white face paint that adorned her face. The high priestess chanted in a sonorous voice and the procession moved forward a half step. Suzume sighed and lowered her head. The bells hanging from the decorative pins in her hair jingled as she did so. The second to the high priestess whipped her head around, somehow hearing the insignificant sound beneath the High Priestess’ chanting. The Second glared at Suzume who returned the look with a half-smile and a tilt of her head which jangled the bells further. The pinging sound was swallowed by the chanting but it felt like a small triumph for Suzume.
The Second did not approve, if the glare was any indication but she would not interrupt the ceremony to scold Suzume. If she had learned anything since coming to the temple, Suzume knew the Maidens of the Mountain took their ceremonies seriously. Suzume’s small rebellion had lost its appeal and she straightened further and took another half-step forward. What she wouldn’t give to rip this constricting robe and sash off. I would trade all my father’s—the emperor as I must now call him— I would give up all his gold and the power of the eight to be free of this robe!
True, she was no stranger to fine garments. Indeed, she had often donned fine silks and entertained at the palace. Before her mother had ruined everything, she had been often called upon by influential members of the palace. She should be viewing the cherry blossoms with general Tsubaki, her one time intended. He was the perfect match, powerful and old enough to not notice when I flirted with the younger lords. She sighed again and the second broke rank to hiss at her.
Suzume rolled her eyes and took another half-step. Now she wore the white marriage robe and instead of marrying General Tsubaki. She was binding her life to the sisterhood, an unwilling bride of the mountain, exiled to a life of servitude. All because her mother didn’t know how to keep her legs closed.
A wind blew beneath the wooden archway that covered the pathway. It dried the sweat that was surely streaking the white paint on her neck. She chanced a glance to her side, beyond the red columns of the arches, an endless stretch of mountain range stretched to the west and if she turned to the east, she would see the ocean. She had come a long way from the White Palace to this desolate mountain temple. Suzume suppressed another sigh, lest the second scowl grow deeper. Let’s get this over with, she thought.
After what felt like hours, but was closer to a few minutes, they passed beneath the last of the red arches and the house of the God of the Mountain lay before them.
The high priestess stopped the procession and ended her chant with one long echoing note that bounced off the surrounding mountains. In the absence of her chanting, the following silence was more defined. The wind howled ominously. The head Priestess and all the other shrine maidens bowed in unison. Suzume, still new to the sisterhood, did not follow but instead stared into the inner sanctum of the god. A pedestal was the room’s only adornment and upon the white pillow was an obsidian stone.
“Bow you ungrateful girl,” the high priestess scolded.
Suzume did so with reluctance. Something about that object, the one housing the god, seemed familiar, as if she had seen it before. As she kneeled, she lost sight of it. She lowered her head in feigned obedience. However, a sensation began to stir in her gut and a tingling feeling spread through her body. She glanced up once more. The High Priestess stepped forward taking tiny steps while swinging a container of incense. The white smoke swirled around her and trailed after her as she approached the pedestal.
The High Priestess kneeled before it and set the incense to burn next to the obsidian stone. The room filled with the pungent smoke.
“God of the Mountain, bringer of the rain, great master who parted the lands from the sea, please welcome your bride into your fold.” She clapped her hands together finishing the prayer. She rose up onto the balls of her feet and turned to face the group without rising from a kneeling position. She motioned for Suzume to come forward.
She rose and crossed the threshold, as she did so the tingling sensation before became more of a flame burning her and desperate for release. She stopped afraid to move for fear her very skin would melt from her bones if she went too near. Is this a part of the ceremony, if so I refuse to be a part of it.
The High Priestess frowned and once more beckoned for her to come forward.
Suzume shook her head and set the bells jangling. They echoed across the room and seemed to reverberate tenfold.
“You cannot turn back now, you will anger the god.” The second snarled now standing beside her with a rough grip of Suzume’s elbow.
She forced her forward and Suzume’s knees buckled beneath her. Her stomach heaved and she feared she would empty the contents of her stomach in front of them. She grabbed her abdomen in a last effort to hold back but something bubbled up from inside her, the burning receded from her arms and pooled in her stomach before traveling up and out of her mouth. The energy escaped and she fell to her knees as the escaped like a blue current that sparked and ungulated as it made a direct trajectory for the pedestal and collided with the obsidian stone.
For a moment the stone vibrated, and then it began to rock back and forth of its stand. Finally it rolled and began to rocket about. Then the pedestal exploded in a shower of splintered wood. The High Priestess was thrown backwards by the force and Suzume fell to the ground just in time to avoid a deadly piece of wood from piercing her through the heart.
When the raining debris ceased, she looked up again, smoke from explosion and the overturned incense carrier filled the chamber. The burning sensation had left her body but Suzume sensed something powerful. The energy pressed down on her and nearly forced the air from her body.
“High Priestess!” The second shouted somewhere in the smoke and debris. The other maidens were chattering in fear.
“I am here, and unharmed.” The High Priestess said. The smoke cleared and revealed her to be lying on the ground, she sat up and bits of wood fell off of her. She looked at Suzume her eyes wide, “What did you do?” She asked.
Before Suzume had even the chance to answer, a hollow maniacal laughter filtered through the chamber. The Head Priestess’ mouth made a circle and she turned her head back to where the pedestal had been. The smoke rolled away fully and a coiled serpentine body covered in pearlescent scales dominated the room. The creature’s muzzled face looked down upon Suzume his long whiskers brushing against the bells on her hair pieces.
“Lord of the Mountain and bringer of the rain, I presume?” Suzume asked.
The creature smirked revealing rows of dagger sharp teeth. “You awoke me?” His voice echoed and filled the room with thunder.
Had she been a cautious woman, she would have listened to the underlined threat in the creature’s stature and words but Suzume prided herself on the fact that she did not cower before anyone, even the God of the Mountain.
“And if I did?” She asked.
The beast exhaled and the charms in her hair chimed and stirred.
“God of the Mountain,” The high priestess exhaled, she had found her voice once more.
He turned his large head towards her and looked her up and down. “Your voice has been in my dreams.”
“Thank you, lord, it is a great honor. I always hoped you heard my fervent prayers. I have dedicated my life to your service. Please tell us, why now have you—“
“Silence, you speak to much, human. I did not awaken to hear your prattling. You should stick to your prayers and songs they are much easier upon the ears.” He growled and the High Priestess fell onto her knees and laid her face to the ground.
“My apologies—“ she started to say but he growled and she silenced herself.
The god turned back to Suzume. “I can sense little spiritual power in you and yet you have undone the seal.” he said while regarding Suzume with a tilted look. The shrine maidens and high priestess had moved out of the way of the god’s coiling body and were huddled outside.
She looked at them and back at the god. How had she unleashed him? As far as she could tell it had been an accident, an involuntary action. Regardless of the how, she did not want to admit her ignorance in front of the other shrine maidens.
“It was simple, the seal was weak,” Suzume lied.
He tilted his head and barked a thundering laugh that shook the building down to its foundation. He took a few steps back and then with a puff of smoke transformed. When the smoke cleared, a young man stood in his place. A naked young man. His sleek black hair hung loose about his shoulders in an almost obscene way. His chest was bare and marred by a myriad of small scars.
Suzume admired his lean physique and let her eyes trace his body downwards. Before she could get too far however, The High Priestess forced Suzume’s head down so she could not admire the gods other masculine assets. Suzume sighed, if this is how she was expected to act in the presence of a man, especially a superior example of a man, for the rest of her life, then she was not going to like living her at all.
The god approached her and loomed over her. “You are my newest servant?”
She bristled at the servant distinction and was preparing to correct his misconception when the High priestess chose that moment to interrupt.
“She is your newest tribute, my lord, your pure bride.”
He raked Suzume up and down and she met his gaze with an out jutted chin and only took a quick peak at his manhood. Not bad, she thought. He laughed again.
“I don’t know how pure she is.”
Suzume glared at him. How dare he insinuate she was anything but chaste! She had been trying to attempting to get a sneak peak at his godly assets but nothing more than that. It didn’t make her impure to be curious.
“My lord!” The priestess proclaimed. He turned to her and looked her up and down.
“You keep calling me that but I am not your mountain god. I am a dragon, and before I was trapped inside that stone, I ruled this realm. And you,” he kneeled before Suzume and now she did avert her gaze she did not need to be that familiar with his manhood. “Shall help me find her and exact my revenge for sealing me away.”
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