When Azuki, the girl who turns into a Toki, and her brother, the Sparrow-Boy Shota, finally reach their home village to claim their human identities, they find chaos and war, as the brother of the man who killed their parents and still wants to capture Azuki is fighting the appointment of the new lord of the domain. A traveling monk shelters them from battle, hiding Azuki in plain sight as a boy acolyte and Shota as her pet sparrow. In the midst of the fight, Azuki discovers an asset even more valuable than her brilliant feathers. This, she realizes, is the asset the foreigners seek, and this is what the rightful lord – the one who doesn’t want to kill her – can use to cement his claim!
Yuta, the monk, agrees to take them to the capitol and get them in to see the properly appointed Lord Eitaro, but they must outrun the battle first. Karasu Tengu, nasty bird-humanoids that follow battles and harass monks, spot them and realize Azuki is no ordinary acolyte – or ordinary girl. Yuta drives them off, but Shota thinks of his friend, Renko, the Dragon Princess, while touching the Wishing Rock she gave him, and the Tengu realize that he knows a Dragon, the old enemy of the evil Tengu. They vow they will be back with their DaiTengu master, to steal Azuki and challenge the Dragon.
Taking shelter in a outcast’s village where the old and sick live outside the law, they make arrangements to travel with deep-woods colliers as far as the nearest town, and thence to the city where Lord Eitaro might be found. Bandits attack their little group, and Shota flies off for reinforcements. Blackie, Shota’s horse friend, stolen by the bandits, offers his help and that of Red Wind, a roan mare who claims she is fastest of them all.
As they get close to the city, both Azuki and Shota realize how precarious their situation is. They hadn’t thought beyond getting home, not completely realizing that as children, they were completely under the power of adults who could do pretty much anything with them. That would be hard for any children, much less children who can and must turn into birds. Shota tells the Dragon Princess that the Tengu know about her. She will help them, she says, and will be keeping watch. Azuki encounters a Tanuki in the wood who has a surprising message for them both.
Once they reach the city, Azuki spots a new style of loom, one of the many stunning technologies the foreigners have brought. She loves to weave, she’s good at it, and she wants that loom, so while Yuta goes to visit the Abbot at the big Temple and arrange an audience with their lord, Azuki sneaks out – and she’s caught. Has she forfeited her opportunity to see and work the marvelous loom forever?
The Abbot arranges for them to meet with Lady Satsuki, Lord Eitaro’s wife, and their daughter, Anko. There, they can impart their news of the coal discovery, which will ensure Eitaro’s position. There, too, the children’s fate will be decided. How can they be themselves and follow their dreams when the world that has so much power over them doesn’t have a place for bird-children?
Then there’s the DaiTengu, the humanoid form of the monster, that wants Azuki’s feathers for its wind-making fans even if she isn’t a female Tengu.
Can Azuki escape once more? Will the Dragon Princess defeat the DaiTengu? How can Shota and Azuki survive in a human world when they aren’t entirely human? Can they find a way to live as themselves among humans who will accept them as they are? Will they find a way to chase their dreams and make them whole?
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords and/or Amazon at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/554066.
eBook formatting and cover design by Shelley Glasow at goodlifeguide.com