[Author’s Note: “The Royal Crown of Okinawa (A Bakiya Takahashi Adventure)” ends its first volume as Bakiya discovers the whereabouts of his beloved Saki-san.]
About the time Nathan knocked on Anri’s door, Tsumugi, the Emperor, and the rest of their guests sat to enjoy a fabulous meal. Everyone was engaged in small talk when the subject turned to Okinawa.
It turned out the island was mostly unknown in history, governed by shogun-like leaders who had nothing but trouble for hundreds of years. Many of the leaders were killed or overthrown, and the island was in chaos.
The elders sought long for the means of stopping this trend, but the wisest among them were perplexed. Captain Thompson, lost at sea years ago, stumbled upon the beautiful island. He saw the strife and suggested democracy as a way to bring peace to the island.
The next year, the uber-rich Emperor took power in the first free and fair election on the enchanted island. The economy boomed, and Saki’s father happily took all the credit.
“Years of turmoil and strife on this island. I brought prosperity to the deities, demigods, and most fortunate mortals who now populate this grand paradise in peace.”
“This place does seem amazing,” Bakiya said.
“Thank you. It is owing to my great power, wealth, and genius that I am treated with such respect.”
“And the fact everyone knows to stay on your good side if they want to stay alive,” Tsumugi said, as she muffled her mouth with her hands.
When the Emperor heard that, he said to her, “Depart, I know all. I see the past, present, and future. I will not smite you, being a tired, old hag beneath that weak magic of yours.”
“Try again, dear sister.”
Tsumugi dropped to her knees. She stretched her arms and hands as far as they would go. The Emperor laughed.
“Yes, great and wise leader.”
“That’s much better. Now get out.”
“Yes, dear brother.”
Tsumugi stood and bowed, and she left. Bakiya recalled his early working days under his old boss Mr. Watanabe. He chomped hard on a crispy piece of fried chicken, the recipe an island secret. This was not the time to make an enemy. The conversation changed to a more pressing topic.
“So I take it Saki has had no luck in finding it,” said Captain Thompson.
“No, there’s been nothing on that front. I know she means well, but it’s a mistake for her to be going at it alone. Especially with Nishimura out there with — ”
“The Royal Crown of Okinawa,” Captain Thompson said.
“You mean the ‘Lost’ Royal Crown of Okinawa,” Trevor said, with a sly smirk.
“Thank you, Mr. Obvious. Do they not teach manners in culinary school?” Robert scolded.
“Nah, they are more into teaching the ABCs.”
“Oh, I see. You — Arrogant — Back-water — Cock — ”
“Now, boys, take it easy,” Captain Thompson said.
“Yes, after all, ‘Manners maketh man,’” Bakiya said.
“Cock — er spaniel,” Robert finished, knowing this was a foreign land with different rules.
“Now, back to business, are there any clues at all to where Nishimura has taken the Crown,” Captain Thompson asked, ever the pirate.
He saw a treasure to be found. There was something different about his manner. Captain Thompson was obsessed with the idea of seeking treasure. The Emperor was unmoved.
“I know exactly where it is.”
“In the Hidden City of Ginowan. Saki has searched this island and the world over looking for it. But the powers of Nishimura are great. The Royal Crown of Okinawa’s location is difficult to discover. Impossible, perhaps.”
“Did you try to look for it?” Bakiya asked.
“I did. Do you take me for a fool?”
“I’m most sorry to have offended you, Your Highness.”
“I sent the powerful Golden Pearl Goddess Phalanx.”
“And?” Bakiya asked.
“They trekked deep into the dense tropical rain forests of this island. The goddesses engaged Nishimura and his treacherous band of minions.”
“What happened then?”
“They lost,” Anri said, as she entered with a smile, a big book in one hand, and Nathan holding the other. Her hair was most eschewed, and Nathan’s once crisply tucked in shirt a wrinkled mess.
“Looks like you two have been having fun,” Trevor said.
“Let the poor girl continue. We can discuss her new love life later,” Robert said.
Anri blushed as she pulled from Nathan’s grasp. She threw the large book on the table and opened it to an old bookmark. Anri turned redder as she stuttered to make it through the passage, but Nathan came to her aid.
“The day after the vicious battle, Nishimura sent out from Ginowan a great many magical warriors. The Minna No, sworn protectors of the once-grand city. The Golden Pearl Goddess Phalanx fought, but to no avail.”
“Why was that? Were they not powerful too?” Bakiya asked.
“Indeed they were, but — ”
“The magic of the Royal Crown of Okinawa hindered them. The goddesses were easily defeated by the Minna No. They were sent back from whence they came with no memory of the city or its whereabouts, save for one goddess. She alone cursed to remember the events of the day with no knowledge of the location.”
“Yes, sir, Saki.”
Nathan reached out and took Anri by the hand. He gave her a peck on the cheek, and the boy gave her a little tug back to the hallway. The young man fancied more time alone with the fair maiden.
“For the love of God finish your story,” Captain Thompson said. “I never heard about this before.”
“Oh, there’s no more to tell. That’s all it says,” Nathan said.
“There must be more. Let me see that book,” Captain Thompson said as he ripped the book from the lovestruck lad’s hands.
Nathan despite his current state of distraction for the pretty, young girl before him was educated. The book said nothing more about Ginowan or the whereabouts of the Royal Crown of Okinawa.
“What exactly does The Royal Crown of Okinawa do?” Bakiya asked.
“It’s a place of relief and often one of solitude, and one of great power when one knows how to wield it,” The Emperor said.
“What does that mean?” Robert asked.
“It’s something one cannot understand until they need it,” The Emperor said.
“‘Need it’ for what?” Trevor asked.
“Alas, no explanation would likely be enough for your little, mortal brain,” The Emperor said as he resumed his holier-than-thou posture.
“I’m a human, not an idiot,” Trevor shouted. “I bet I could find that thing.”
“But a genius you are not,” Robert said with a snort.
“That’s enough, you two. Nobody wants to see Round Two,” Captain Thompson said.
“What’s that stuck on the page?” Bakiya asked.
“No idea, probably a bookmark. That library is pretty old. Most of those volumes were printed long before I was born,” Nathan answered
“No, boy, that’s more than a silly bookmark,” Captain Thompson said.
It was an oldish-looking envelope Captain Thompson had seen many of them during his bank days. They were used to send important documents with couriers for the rich or the royals.
It was tied with a yellow ribbon and sealed. There was a label inscribed in old ink:
My Beloved Bakiya Takahashi.
“So it appears,” Captain Thompson said.
“Go on, read it, my good man,” The Emperor said.
“I went to Ginowan to rectify a terrible mistake. Alas, I failed. I had the Crown within my grasp, but Nishimura was once more too powerful. He took most of my Carta Igienica for himself. Now, I find myself trapped in the Royal Crown of Okinawa. I can’t leave without more.”
“My poor daughter,” The Emperor said.
“Let him finish,” Trevor said. “Geesh!”
“I used the last Carta Igienica I had to send this message to you. I beg of you, Bakiya-san, my love find me, save the Crown for my people, and replenish my Carta Igienica. Help me, Bakiya Takahashi-san, you’re my last hope.- Saki. P.S. Remember ‘Everything in life is a trade.’”
“Oh no, Nishimura took the last of Saki’s Carta Igienica. This is most serious,” The Emperor said.
“Why is that? She’s immortal. Right?” Bakiya asked.
“That is correct. But as I told you Bakiya, ‘Even immortality has its limits.’”
“What does that mean?” Anri asked.
“It means this island keeps the gods and goddesses forever living but only if they return here now and again to recharge,” Captain Thompson said.
“So you guys are batteries?” Robert asked.
“I am not a battery,” The Emperor said.
“Sure sounds like it to me,” Trevor said.
“That’s a crude way to put it, but in a manner of speaking, it’s accurate,” Captain Thompson said.
“Is that true, Your Highness?” Bakiya asked.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” The Emperor said.
“What will become of Saki?” Anri asked.
“Saki can only survive so long inside the Royal Crown of Okinawa without Carta Igienica,” Captain Thompson said. “As I understand it.”
“That’s correct. If she cannot get more soon, she will be trapped inside it forever,” The Emperor said. “There will be nothing anyone can do to help her after that.”
“Oh dear! We have to save her,” Bakiya said. “But how?”
Craig Jackson Hoffman writes under the pen name of Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin. Craig can be found on Twitter. Craig is a 2020 Writers In Kyoto (International) Writing Competition Honorable Mention Award Winner.