Akai Ito*

*The Japanese believe that lovers are united by a red string. They call it “Akai Ito,” hence the title of this short story by Scott Ting-A-Kee. With its play on gender and sexuality, this mythic dreamy tale of love is the second in our series of prose fiction by aspiring writers.

In The Beginning

The clap of thunder echoed through the celestial palace. It was time for births and reincarnation. It was going to be typical and run of the mill but there were two souls who would be ruined by the gods even before their birth.

The guard ran down the hall searching desperately for Tsukuyomi. He found him playing his bamboo flute in the middle of the garden.

“Tsukuyomi! There is a problem. You have made a grave error,” the guard blurted out.

“Impossible! What did I do?” Tsukuyomi asked.

“Come with me to see the Celestial Emperor,” the guard responded.

He moved swiftly along the halls and pushed the doors into the Emperor’s throne room, visibly upset.

The Emperor looked up from the eternally unravelling scroll which he held in hand. He maintained his stoic expression and calmly asked,

“When Meng Po was unable to carry out her duties, did you and your wife, Amaterasu, assist in the guiding of souls into the river that lead to the reincarnation wheel?”

“Yes, we lead the souls as specified by Meng Po,” Tsukuyomi replied.

The Emperor nodded his head.

“There are three rivers from the underworld which lead to the reincarnation wheel. One for those to be reborn as humans, the second for those to become animals and the third for those to become youkai. There has been a mix up that can spell chaos, luckily not major havoc but it will lead to unfortunate ends for these two.”

“I don’t understand. What has happened?”

“Tsukuyomi, did Meng Po leave uswith some vials for the souls to drink?”

“Yes, it was to help the souls to forget their previous lives,” he replied.

The Emperor sat silently with knitted brows, rubbing his beard. Then, his eyes widened.

“Did Sosanoo follow the two of you into the underworld?” he asked.

“I do not know,” Tsukuyomi replied.

The Emperor’s face became red with fury and he waved his hand to signal to Tsukuyomi that he was dismissed.

Two days passed and Tsukuyomi and Amaterasu were summoned by the Emperor. When they entered the chambers, Meng Po was seated at the table. The couple sat and the goddess started to explain while the Emperor was silently observing with murderous intent in his eyes.

“Sosanoo has done his mischief, again. There were two souls who were lovers centuries ago, one a princess and the other a top general of the rival clan. They were caught eloping and were killed by the clan leaders. The general for his sins was supposed to be a youkai since his anger and hatred was so great and the princess, a human.”

“You said, “supposed,” so Sosanoo switched the lover’s paths?” Amaterasu asked.

“No. The princes