Poseidon of the East

Chapter 40

6-2 Shushou crouched down next to Gankyuu. “What?” she blurted out. “Why?”

p. 367

Had a new predator arrived, fierce enough to make a kasso take flight? Gankyuu glanced around for this new enemy. He saw nothing, only heard a wail like a sudden squall. The threatening cry of a san’yo, Gankyuu knew. The high-pitched roar of the kasso followed soon after.

The kasso clamped its jaws around the flying snake’s neck. The san’yo lashed back and forth in vain.

Shushou and an equally dumbfounded Gankyuu watched the fantastical scene unfold. Youma fought over food and territory all the time. But not when there was blood in the air and prey right in front of their eyes. After the game had been brought down, perhaps. A youma never chose to fight instead of feast.

Sunlight flashed through the leafy branches. Drops of rain drummed against the leaves. A dark red rain. Next came the writhing san’yo and the kasso, sinking its teeth deeper into the neck of the struggling snake.

Its scales glittered in the scattered sunlight. The kasso stepped on its wings and jerked its head to the side, tearing off the san’yo’s head. The long, reptilian torso whipped back and forth. And suddenly grew still. Aside from an occasional twitch, it was quite dead.

Devouring the scaly head, the kasso cast a brief, backwards glance at Gankyuu. Lit up by a beam of sunlight, the bands of reddish brown fur around its head and shoulders turned into translucent tongues of flame.

p. 368

The kasso lost interest in Gankyuu and returned its attention to its meal. Beneath its feet, the san’yo twitched again, casting off flashes of light.

It was Shushou who prodded the gaping Gankyuu. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Ah.” Gankyuu nodded, still in a daze. But it was a soft neigh that brought him back to his senses. That bird call—and now this neigh—that sounded an awful lot like his haku. He couldn’t help looking around for the source.


Shushou pointed at the kasso, finishing up the san’yo. Past the column of sunlight, a human figure appeared in the forest. A horse—an animal that looked like a horse—was with him. No, it was undoubtedly the haku, still wearing its saddle and packs.

The man was holding the reins and leading it towards them, his face was lost in the green shadows.

“A human being?” Shushou said aloud. One of the koushu no tami. It had to be. A quiet physique too slender for a man, too rugged for a woman, showing not the slightest sign of fear or horror at the grotesque scene before them.

p. 369

It wasn’t Rikou or one of the other goushi. He was wearing a shawl. What did they call it? All the goushi used them as scarf and windbreaker. The shawl wrapped around his head and shoulders. Between the layers of fabric she could make out hard lines and sharp shadows. Armor, perhaps?

Leading the haku along, he passed by the kasso without the slightest reaction. He stepped over the long, limp tail of the san’yo. For a moment, the column of sunlight revealed a young and gentle face.

Gankyuu and Shushou stood there in awed silence. He walked up to them. “Is this haku yours?”

His voice was young too. Gankyuu nodded. The slender man—more a teenager—held out the reins to Gankyuu. His actions remained calm and collected throughout. The haku, on the other hand, bobbed its head energetically. The reins slipped through Gankyuu’s fingers. The haku instead lowered its head and rested its muzzle on Gankyuu’s shoulder.

When Gankyuu was training him, this was how the haku sought his approval. Gankyuu patted him on the neck. “Good boy. Good boy. Nice to see you safe and sound.”

Whether or not the haku understood he’d been abandoned, he affectionately rubbed his muzzle against Gankyuu’s shoulder. Gankyuu stroked the smooth curve of his neck. Bathed in the soft green light, the haku’s coat cast off a glossy sheen.

p. 370

“Are you one of the koushu no tami?” He asked the question in the same soft voice, with no note of reproach.

Gankyuu nodded. “Greatly appreciated. Did you rescue the haku?”

“It was tied with a black rope, so I assumed the owner was on the run from a youma. I see you are wounded.”

“Ah, that.” Using the sword as a cane, Gankyuu let go of the haku and slumped to the ground. “As you can see, you saved our necks as well.”

“Um,” Shushou said. She pointed at the feasting youma. “Isn’t that a youma? Should we just stand here chatting? Or is that your kijuu?”

The boy shook his head. “Not a kijuu. Call it an acquaintance.”

“A youma is your acquaintance?”

“Well, more or less.”

p. 371

As they talked, Shushou got a better up-close look at him. He wasn’t much older than herself.

He asked her, “Are you a koushu too?”

Gankyuu said, “No is the best answer to that question.”

“I don’t suppose you could help us out here? We’d be really, really grateful.”

“Sure,” he said without any prevarication. “With all the bloodshed, we should get moving.” He reached down to Gankyuu. “That leg of yours, you should saddle up. I’ll show you to a safe place.”

As he pulled Gankyuu to his feet, a gap opened up in the shawl wrapped around his shoulders, Shushou gaped at the sight of the antique armor beneath, yet finely made and in good condition. The string of gems hanging across his right shoulder to his left side sparkled with a clean, clear light, casting off a rainbow of colors as he moved. Stranger still, this beautiful jewelry didn’t appear at all ornamental.

A shawl woven with gems—

Shushou raised her eyes and examined the side of the boy’s face with wide eyes as he helped him into the saddle.

p. 372

Gankyuu extended his hand and then stopped, the look on his face little different than Shushou’s.

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