6-5 The man and the girl and the haku spent the night huddled together. They awoke at the break of dawn and prepared to depart. The wizard didn’t appear to have slept.
Before they left, the wizard had Shushou reapply the dressing to Gankyuu’s wound. Undoing the wrappings and the bandages, she and Gankyuu were equally amazed at what they found. The wound had already begun to heal and form new flesh.
Shushou peered at the bamboo flask and then at the wizard. “This is amazing stuff.”
The wizard smiled and gave Gankyuu the same medical treatment he had the night before.
“Um, didn’t you say that Tensen don’t interact with humans?”
“Looks like you’re doing a fair amount of interacting here.”
He chuckled. “So I am. Well, nothing wrong with that. I’m curious that way, spending my days wandering about the Yellow Sea. Gyokkei has given up trying to reform me.”
“Gyokkei,” Shushou repeated to herself. So perhaps sticking to the matter at hand and avoiding unnecessary tangents wasn’t such a hard and fast rule after all.
He smiled and got to his feet. “It’s only a little further to Mt. Hou, but now’s not the time to start taking it easy.”
“Thanks for everything.”
“You’ve got one last rough patch to go, the hardest, rockiest desert on the road from Ken. Don’t let your spirits flag.”
Shushou put down the saddle and looked up at him. “So you’re not going to see us the rest of the way?”
“Hey!” came Gankyuu’s scolding voice. He was hauling along the saddle packs.
“I’m afraid not,” the wizard said with a small smile, and turned on his heels.
“What about the youma?”
“Well, he says. Are they gathering about us even now? That’s what you said last night. If you knew that much, then you’d know if they were still there.”
He shook his head. “I may have fibbed a bit.”
Shushou glared at him. “Why am I not surprised? You are a scoundrel at heart.”
“If you think me a scoundrel, then keep this in mind: a prayer reaches no ears if it is anything less than sincere.”
For a moment, Shushou looked right into his gentle eyes.
“It must be from the heart, Miss. Otherwise, Heaven will withhold its divine protection.”
“You Wizards of Heaven are a mischievous lot.”
He laughed. “I guess I’m not human, after all.”
“And if you weren’t telling fibs? Would you at least escort us back to the Shouzan road?”
“I do not see the need.”
“What a cold-hearted cur. There’s a wounded man here, you know.”
“Yes, a wounded man is here. But I won’t be. So the youma won’t come.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I so rarely run into other people.”
Shushou frowned in confusion. “I haven’t the slightest idea how you Wizards of Heaven think.”
He smiled. “In other words, you have good fortune on your side.”
“And you’re saying that meeting you used it all up?”
“Not in the slightest. But it wouldn’t hurt for you to stay in the dark a little while longer. Be on your way. You have the divine protection of the Lord God Creator.”
Shushou twisted her head and glanced at Gankyuu. He only nodded with a knowing look.
“There are times when adults simply become incomprehensible.”
Shinkun grinned and walked down to the stream bed.
“Oh, that’s right. Hey!” Shushou got to her feet and ran a little ways after him. “Weren’t Wizards of Heaven once human?”
“Yes,” he said over his shoulder.
“Then you have a name? Shinkun is a nickname or title, isn’t it?”
He nodded. As if remembering something, he took hold of the shawl wrapped around his shoulders. “You’ll need this when crossing the desert.”
He undid the shawl and tossed it to her, revealing the armor underneath. The sunlight slanting through the treetops sparkled off the chain of jewels.
“You’re missing a sleeve. You’ll get sunburned otherwise.”
“Thank you. What was your name again?”
“What good will knowing it do you?”
“When people meet, their names become the foundation of the relationship.” Shushou said with a slight bow, “My name is Shushou. That is Gankyuu. The haku still doesn’t have a name. Gankyuu said I could give it one. If you don’t mind, yours will do nicely.”
He grinned. A breeze tousled his hair, black tinged with blue. He said, “The name is Kouya.”