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Yellow Orchids: A Short Story

Updated on October 29, 2009

Nagano had fallen for Kyoto.  There were many beautiful and willing girls in the village but none as beautiful and pure as Kyoto.  Kyoto saw how easily the other girls fell for Nagano.  She saw how little effort it would take for him to be with one of them.  She trusted his sincerity.  But she could not bring herself to trust his fidelity. 

After months of courting Kyoto was braking down.  She was considering marrying Nagano.  One day she told him to meet her at the lagoon.  When Nagano got to the rise on the trail he saw Kyoto sitting on top of the boulder at the edge of the lagoon.  Her long black hair was blowing in the wind, her tan legs curled beneath her ample bottom.  All the girls from the village were there frolicking in the shallow edge of the river, exited at the prospect of Kyoto accepting Nagano’s advances.  He walked to her proudly, his heart jumping within his chest.

Kyoto was holding a yellow Orchid in one hand and a river rock in the other. “I will join you under one condition.” Kyoto said without turning, as soon as she felt him behind her.

“Name it.” Nagano’s chest was already bursting at the prospect of finally marrying his love.

“I will throw this rock against the great wall.” Said Kyoto in a whisper towards the water, “You will climb to where it strikes. I will toss this flower into the pond. You will pluck it from the water. You do that and I will be yours for ever.”

Nagano stared at the ancient limestone and mud wall, climbing it would not be easy, a test of strength and agility. Then he looked at the lagoon. He knew it to be shallow and the bottom was peppered with boulders which made it almost impossible to survive a jump from higher than the height of three men. A test of courage and will. He was a brave warrior and he was in love. He accepted.

Kyoto reared back and launched the river rock with all her might against the ancient wall across the lagoon. The village girls gasped in horror. The river rock had struck more than twenty times the height of a man from the surface of the lagoon. Reaching that point on the wall was not humanly possible and even if Nagano reached it, to jump into the shallow waters would be suicidal.

Nagano stared at Kyoto for a long, long time, his eyes clouded over with sadness.  He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly, then turned and walked into the lagoon.  The village girls pleaded with him to return.  They begged him to forget it, yelled that it was impossible.  But Nagano swam undeterred to the wall at the other side of the lagoon.

Kyoto knew that Nagano would accept her conditions.  He was a brave, proud, strong man, but she was not interested in bravery or strength or pride.   Kyoto shot the rock to the highest point she could reach because she knew it would be impossible for Nagano to reach that point on the wall.  No one had ever climbed the great wall, half as high, with its muddy surface and lack of hand holds. And even if he did, no one would be stupid enough to jump into a puddle of rocks.  She had devised the condition in order for him to sacrifice his courage, his honor, his strength.  If he refused or failed to accomplish the task he would look like a weakling or a coward in front of the village girls.  None of them would want anything to do with him and his fidelity would be assured.  Handsome or not, no one wants a weakling or coward for a husband, except the woman that made him so.

Nagano had reached the wall and had begun his ascent. The village girls called to him to stop, that he didn’t have to do it, that he had proven his willingness and love. Some even pleaded with Kyoto who stared at the water as if they weren’t there. Nagamo was making good progress on the wall. He was finding footrests and handholds where non existed. The cries of the women brought the rest of the village to the lagoon. By the time everyone knew what was going on, Nagano was halfway to the mark.

Kyoto thought of stopping him. Her heart was beating with fear for him. Yet she wanted to be sure of his love and a guarantee of his fidelity. She wanted to keep him forever. Even if he reached the mark, she thought, he would turn back when he looked down and saw her tossing the flower.

When Nagano reached the mark his chest was about to explode with fear, he was afraid of heights, his arms and legs felt like leaves fluttering in the wind and his head threatened to crack as the trepidation mounted. He pulled the river rock from where it had wedged in the muddy surface of the great wall. Holding it in his hand, he turned around from the wall on the tiny ledge holding his feet and faced the lagoon. He looked down and felt the earth pulling him off the wall. A sudden gust of fear almost pushed him off the wall. Nagano buried his fingers against the muddy wall and held with all his might. He shook his head to remove his long black hair from his face and looked down. Everything looked impossibly small.

He saw Kyoto staring at him strangely, and for a moment he had the hope that she would call him down, and a tiny smile edged on his lips, but then Kyoto’s hand moved and he saw a tiny dot of yellow fly to the water. Sadness overwhelmed him completely. He hesitated a moment, then to everyone’s dismay, he jumped.

Kyoto got her wish. Nagano proved his love for her and no other woman would ever have him. He had been strong and brave, but unlucky. When the men finally pulled himout of the lagoon he was still holding the yellow Orchid in one hand and a the river rock on the other. Even after his head had crashed against the side of a submerged boulder he had continued to reach for the orchid.


Kyoto became a recluse and lived the rest of her days against the boulder by the edge of the lagoon. After she died, Kyoto was cremated, as it was their custom, and her ashes were spread over the lagoon.

No yellow Orchids grow anywhere near the lagoon anymore. They say they all died the same day Nagano died. But on certain summer days if you come to the lagoon and sit on the boulder just before dawn, as the sun rises, you could see the surface of the lagoon covered with yellow Orchids.

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