Chapter 1:


Soul Mirror hues

Knowing it was the last of the preparations, I push myself late into the night to finish the itinerary for my much needed trip to Japan.

I need to get away from the city for a while, from work that has recently overwhelmed me physically and mentally. Find a peaceful place to unwind my mental baggage. A quiet place away from the blabber mouth boss of mine.

I feel a sense of relief when I finally take my seat on the plane. I gaze out the window, watch the plane advance through the runway, slowly, steadily accelerating.

Asphalt coated in yellow sunlight, agonizingly still is the next frame out the window. I woozily turn my head quickly and see the empty seats, and line of people near the door. I slept the whole 11 hour ride, I realize, feeling my body surprisingly refreshed.

Under a mostly cloudy spring day in Tokyo, I walk hastily to my next destination on my tightly scheduled itinerary.

I pass many tourist on the way. Some of them seemingly lost, directionless. A small group up ahead, just outside an establishment is especially pathetic. Nearly all slightly hunched and looking around, mostly by eye movement. A girl in them stands out immediately, the only one not hunched. She has red hair and a wide stance, she is flailing her arms around as she talks loudly. Locals and other tourists give her a blank stare and space as they pass by.

She turns around to talk to a shopkeeper. The others in her group see this, and start to sneak away.

As I’m nearing her, she turns around again. Her shining smile turns into disheartening disappointment, her flailing arms seemingly sapped of their energy and come to rest down by her sides as she finds herself alone. Even the shopkeeper has turned his back to her, walking away, back to his shop.

Her lost puppy dog eyes on verge of tears start to look around, almost like searching for something, or someone. I try to become as inconspicuous as possible, having no time to waste. Yet somehow I can’t resist, and take a last glimpse at her as I’m about to pass her, at that exact time her eyes hone in on me. We lock eyes. As we stare at each other, her eyes start to light up.

“Hey, you’re a foreigner too, aren’t you?” she yells as her arms get a jolt of movement.

I pretend not to know she is talking to me. I casually turn my head to the opposite street. As I pass adjacent to her, my foot gets caught on something. I topple forward and smack my knee in the pavement. She tripped me, I quickly presume, bursting in pain.

“Oh, hey now, you got’a watch were yer going, yer too busy looking at that male host club across the street, you tripped on this cone here” she proclaims. I look near my foot, remorsefully finding a cone. “Male host clubs, is that your fancy, is it” she murmurs.

“Well, cmon then” she calls out, as she extends her arm to me with a kindhearted smile. I take her hand and am brusquely lifted to my feet. She is stronger than she looks.

“I’m Emlyn, what’s your name?” she asks curiously

“It’s Mich-” I pause halfway through my name, realizing I was almost caught in a useless conversation.

As thankful as I am for her helping me, I cant waste time on her. “Its Michael” I say finally, along with a nod trying to conjure a polite thank you, hello, and goodbye gesture. I quickly turn to continue to my destination, yet my leg fails to follow, still aching in pain. Oh no, I think.

“You’re a foreigner too, let’s explore together, I’ll be alot of fun…” she overwhelms me with endless, excited words, and arm movements, stuttering my movement to a crawl. I slowly back away from her and somehow escape. Maybe she was too busy talking to notice, I wonder.

“Oh there you are, you’re late. You sure are slow for someone who looks to be in a hurry” a familiar voice says satirically from behind the gate of the temple I’m about to enter. Evelyn steps out. I am puzzled for a second.

“How you get here” I ask, somewhat stuttering

“I saw your itinerary while you were on the ground, looked like fun, so I took a shortcut here” she says, with a hint of hard breathing.

“You took the bus, didn’t you?” I imply. Her face turns slightly red. “Wasn’t there any other tourist you could hang out with on the bus” I ask

“Yeah, but they all gave me the cold shoulder after I yelled hi at them across the bus” she says, getting even more red and scratching the back of her head with an embarrassed smile. “You’re the only one who stopped to talk to me” she says softly. Because my knee was busted!, I yell inside my head.

I’ve wasted enough time, I hastily head inside the temple. Emlyn moves next to me, walking like were together.

“Find someone else to travel with, I’m not slowing down for anyone, you’ll just get left behind” I say to her sincerely.

“Who’s the one who just got left behind, remind me” she argues. I almost trip. “You would be faster with me by your side, its already been proven!” she pronounces excitingly. “I’ma stick by your side from now on so yer not slow, no shame in being incompetent, yer in a new country after all!” she reassures me.

“You’re the one who can’t adopt to the more quiet culture” I yell at her

“I’m usually not this loud, just so excited to be in Japaaaaan” she says almost ending with a squeal, making people’s head turn to us.

“keep it down you’re going to get us-I mean you! yourself in trouble!” I say, lowering my voice, keeping a lookout for security.

“If I go down, you go down too, we’re a team now!” she proclaims with extra arm movement trying to compensate for lowering her voice “plus you were also yelling” she accuses me, softly grumbling

“Thats because you remind me of arguing with the blabber mouth Chief. Even on the company photo his mouth is open” I say almost chuckling. That photo always gets me a little.


“Yes, my boss. I’m a detective for the LA Police Department” I say, as I make my way through people. Somehow I can feel Emlyn walking more close to me now.

We come to a cauldron burning incense. I stare for a bit in wonder, then try to scoop the fragrant smoke on my body with my hands as I close my eyes. Emlyn joins me.

“Woah, you’re taking this seriously, do you really believe in this stuff?” Emlyn asks in a mellow voice

“I don’t want to think about what I believe in right now. I’ve done that too much in my job. I just want to do right now” I calmly answer.

“Uhh…so whats the smoke suppose to do” she asks, while hastily pouring smoke on her self with her speedy arms.

“Its for good fortune, and healing” I say trying to get it right

“Oh is that why you're here, for healing?” she asks looking at me intently. I walk away from the incense, having had enough. Emlyn follows.

“Things happened recently in my line of work, alright. Not everyone comes to Japan to get drunk with sake and party” I say to Emlyn, while staring into the distance. Emlyn’s step sounds start to lag behind, before speeding up to catch up to me.

“You think you got me figured out, don’t cha detective. I’ll have you know I’m not in Japan to party either. I’m actually a student at Tokyo University” she says lecturing me.

I am stopped in my tracks, stunned. I turn my head to her dumbfounded. She’s there with a wide stance and daring smile.

“Really?” I ask cautiously with a corner of my lips down to my jaw

“Nah I just like anime” she admits while closing her eyes,slouching and sticking her tongue out. She turns red for a couple of seconds

Somehow I find myself with my back to the ground and my leg twitching in the air.

I take a couple of pictures here and there. Wondering if I’ll ever see them.

“Okay, we’re leaving, I mean I, me is leaving” I proclaim, almost tangling my words

“Oohw, but we just got here” Emlyn complains, taken aback

We make our way to the entrance

“You can stay here if you want, I got a long list in my itinerary left to check off” I say in a monotone voice while staring at the horizon of the street ahead of me

“I’m pretty sure I’m more fit than a detective who stays in the office all day, I’m a dancer you know…okay not really, but I serve at a pub and dance alot” she says nervously smiling as she starts walking in the direction I’m facing, getting a head start on me.

“I actually get chewed out by the Chief because I’m in the streets to much. That’s why I travel on foot here in Tokyo, I want to get the feel for this city too” I say to her, while I catch up.

“I still don’t know why you would want to follow me” I say casually

“Haven’t you realized? I’m a village girl, first time in a big city. When the people I met online left me I was so scared. Then you came. I took a look at yer eyes and knew you were kind. Learning you’re a Detective confirmed it. I was so happy I found someone I could trust” she says with her head down, words quivering.

I turn my head, examining her. Some of her clothes look handmade, pleasantly arranged. “Village girl huh, you look normal to me, sorta pretty too” I say inadvertently as she turns her head to me. She is slightly flushed and trying to smile

“I’ll teach you about the city as we go along, how about that?” I tell her in an laid back tone

“Okay, yeah! Tell me why everyone looks like they’re in such a hurry to get somewhere. I wana stop and talk to them, maybe later get drunk and dance. That’s what we used to do at our village…” she went on and on all excited. It was no different than hanging out with the Chief. I let her blabber and somewhat listen like background noise.

We made our way through some rivers, busy crosswalks where she almost got lost, markets and landmarks, crossing the locations off my itinerary list.

“Michael, why is it that we’re leaving these places almost as soon as we get there. I’ve been watching you. You come to these places, look around like you’re searching for something. You take pictures with little effort, almost like you’re somewhere else in your mind. And each time your eyes get more sad looking” she says in a somewhat quiet tone, almost like trying to conceal it in her usual ignorable blabber. I doubt she expects an answer.

“It was my partner, he got injured because of me” I reveal. She becomes silent and her footsteps fall back a bit. “I’m only in Tokyo for one day, so I figure I’ll take a quick peek at some things. Tomorrow I’m continuing my travels in the more rural parts of Japan, exploring the smaller towns. Maybe there I’ll find what I’m looking for” I explain to her

“…I see…” she says somewhat softly. “Do you think rural people will wana dance and get drunk with us?” she asks

“Who says you’re coming?” I yell at her

“Were a team, remember?” she counters Defiantly

“Make your own travel plans!” I shout

“I don’t need a plan, we made it to the same spot didn’t we? You with your plan and me going with the wind. Plus did your plan include making an amazing friend? You can’t plan for that!” she argued

“Friend? We’re not friends. You’re just a lost puppy who decided to follow me, you’re just slowing me down!” I regretted the words as soon as they came out. She had stopped in her tracks, but I was unable to stop walking. As the distance grew between us, I thought maybe it was better to end things with her here.

I hear footsteps approach me from behind, Emlyn catches up to me, walking on my side. Her head is slightly down. After a bit of silence “You know back in my village we depend on each other, when we see someone struggling, we don’t leave him behind. Maybe you can learn that when we get to the rural areas” she says in an obvious sad tone as guilt seems to tingle inside me.

“We can take a shortcut here” she says pointing to a park. I follow her, walking the road that goes through the park.

“Was I a burden to you all this time” she asks me softly

“No” I answer quick, almost without thinking

“Do you like me” she asks again softly

“…you remind me of someone”


“My first partner, the one who taught me everything, someone I looked up to as a rookie. I once fell hard trying to break through a window. He lifted me from the ground just like you, same brusque strength, same kind smile. He is long gone now” I explain

We come to a part of the park filled with cherry blossoms. Emlyn’s eyes open wide as she awes.

“Come on, let’s go look at the cherry blossoms” she says exited and pulling my hand

“We, I mean you can come see them another day, they’re always here” I say, not wanting to lose time.

“No, they’re not, They only bloom for a couple of days, looks like alot are in full bloom today, come on. You can’t ignore them or you’ll miss it!” she says, pulling me to some bunched up cherry blossom trees.

“Lets sit here surrounded by these cherry trees and eat. Remember you cant eat and walk here, Mr. Adapted to culture” she argued sitting down on the grass. She took out some bento lunch boxes and handed me one. I sat down next to her, thinking of eating it fast and going on my way.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” I ask her with my mouth full, eying her bento.

“In a bit” she says softly as she rest her head on my shoulder. “You’re not even looking at the cherry flower while you eat, they’re so beautiful you know” she says almost whispering. I continue to stuff my mouth.

As I’m about to eat the last spoonful of my bento I pause and stare at it, then I look at Emlyn. She had grown to become considerate of others hearing, in fact now she was all too quiet, like a baby with blushed cheeks. Her head leaning on my shoulder with a soft smile, blushing red cheeks and half closed and distant dreaming eyes. It seemed at that moment I was tearing space apart, half of me was already full, and walking to my next destination, and half of me was here, daydreaming with her.

I dejectedly eat the last bit of my bento.

“Done, let’s go” I say, trying to stand, but she holds me down.

“We must go” I repeat in a slightly shaking voice. Feeling like the baggage of emotions I brought to Japan has started to spill in a pool under me. At least when I’m going somewhere I don’t feel like I’m about to drown in them.

“lets just be here for a while” Emlyn says, in a drowsy voice holding on to me. I try to wiggle out but she’s too strong, or am I too doubtful, I question myself. I sit there unable to get up, or have I lied to myself?

“Just relax, now” she says softly. “Take some deep breaths…in…and out” she continues. As I follow her breathing instructions, I can feel toxic emotions welling up inside me with each breath. As I shakily breath out they spill out from my mouth like black sour sludge, blocking my airways.

Yet, a new fuzzy, warm emotion starts to emerge inside of me, growing, devouring everything in its path. It’s brightly beautiful, overwhelming. It shoots up from inside me, like a swirling dragon trying to escape from my eyes. I don’t know how much longer I can hold its charge. It’s assaulting my eyelids, roaring to get out.

“Okay, take another big breath” Emlyn says, breathing in herself

“Hold it…

Hold it…

A breeze of air

A rain of petals

An exhale of forgiveness…

Steward McOy

Soul Mirror hues