7-2 The boat passed Mt. Koushuu at the borders of Kou and Kei. The Koushuu were the ranges of mountains that demarcated the borders between each of the eight kingdoms. There was at least one crossing, and no more than three, where the mountains could be traversed from one kingdom to the other.
Because every kingdom had the same geography at its borders, the borders were also known as the Koushuu. Suzu gathered that from the Koushuu mountains separating Kou and Kei to the port of Goto in the northern quarter of the Kei, centrally located on the eastern coast, was a trip of four days and four nights.
“Hey, Suzu, I’ve got a present for you!”
Suzu was standing on the deck looking out at the ocean. Seishuu ran up to her.
“Here,” he said, proudly producing a piece of dried fruit, a candied apricot.
“It’s for you,” he said with a pleased look.
What a strange child. He’d given her such a hard time she expected him to keep his distance afterwards. But that wasn’t the case. Rather, they seemed to bury the hatchet rather quickly. He was cheeky enough to come into the women’s stateroom and sleep next to her. Suzu as well was somehow able to keep her temper in check. Anyway, anybody picking on Seishuu because he was a child would catch it in spades. The kid really had a mouth on him.
Also because they were now sleeping in the same room, Suzu couldn’t help noticing how often he was in pain. Almost every morning found him holding his head and moaning. He wasn’t lying when he said that he’d get better after some rest, but even when he was on the mend he often got sick to his stomach. When he was well, he’d go back to behaving as if nothing were wrong. Otherwise, he could hardly keep his feet under him and had to half-crawl, half-walk to get around.
Suzu suspected that Seishuu didn’t have an ordinary illness. He said he’d been attacked by a youma. Suzu had seen the wound once, a small cut on the back of his head right beneath his pony tail. It didn’t look like a severe injury, but he said his head began to ache only after being wounded there.
“Hey, Seishuu, you really okay?”
He popped an apricot into his mouth and looked at her in surprise. “What?”
“Your injury. You say it still hurts, so that must mean it’s not healing. How are you doing?”
“You’re right. I’m not really okay.”
“Have you been seen by a doctor?”
Seishuu shook his head, no. “Never had the time. But it’s okay. I just got to rest for it to get better.”
“Is it as bad as it used to be? Or is it somehow getting worse?”
She had noticed that the periods of time he was in pain were getting longer and longer. And after he woke up, it was taking him longer before he could walk normally.
Seishuu said in a disconcerted voice, “Hard to say.”
“The last couple of days, you’ve been rubbing your eyes. Are your eyes feeling bad, too?”
“It’s getting hard to see.”
Suzu gasped. “Then obviously something’s wrong. Don’t keep saying it’s getting better. When we get to Kei, we’re taking you straightaway to see a doctor.”
“Did you have a place you needed to go?”
“Seishuu shook his head. “My mom’s dead.”
“I don’t believe it. You just randomly headed for Kei? Shouldn’t you have stayed in Sou?”
Seishuu turned away with a huff. “Mom said to go back to Kei so I’m going back to Kei.”
Suzu took a deep breath. “At any rate, when we arrive in Kei I’m taking you to a doctor. For all we know, you could be at death’s door.”
Seishuu trembled. “You know that because you’re a wizard, Suzu? Am I really dying?” He looked up at her with the frightened face of a child.
“It’s just words, Seishuu. I don’t have any reason to thinking you’re dying.”
“You’ve got a mean streak in you, Suzu.”
“Yes, I do. Sorry. And you’re a plenty bad stinker of a kid as well. Besides, you know that only the good die young.”
Seishuu laughed in agreement and Suzu gazed briefly at his bright, smiling face.
The sailor laughed. “Feeling seasick, little guy?”
“No way,” Seishuu shot back.
Suzu poked her head out from the shelter and wrinkled her brows in concern. It was awful the way he dragged his body along. The sun was low in the sky and yet his condition hadn’t improved.
“But I am feeling a little dizzy.”
“Don’t get yourself all worked up so. Take it easy. You must be getting all worked up about returning to Kei, huh?”
The sailor said that because Seishuu’s hands were trembling. More than a tremor, he was almost convulsing.
“The best thing to do when you’re sick is to sleep it off. Tottering around like this you’re going to fall overboard.”
“Okay,” Seishuu laughed and disappeared into the stateroom.
Suzu watched this with some relief. Seeing Seishuu like that frightened her terribly. A headache or a few tremors, perhaps she wouldn’t be very concerned. But day after day it all piled up, that’s what worried her so. She followed Seishuu into the stateroom. Seishuu was sitting there with a vacant look on his face.
Seishuu looked over his shoulder at her, glancing around the stateroom with a puzzled look on his face. He blinked several times, then rubbed his eyes.
“I’m not okay at all. My eyes are really blurry.”
“But are your eyes okay?”
Suzu rushed up to him. She knelt down on his right and examined his face. “Does it hurt? Do you have a headache?”
Several times, Seishuu glanced back and forth between Suzu and the wall in front of him. “Suzu, I can’t see you.”
“When I’m looking ahead like this, I can’t see you at all.”
Suzu hurriedly directed her gaze forward. People normally had a wide field of vision. She could clearly see Seishuu out of the corners of her eyes.
“What’s wrong with me?”
His childlike face colored with fear.
His stricken countenance crumpled. She thought he was going to cry but instead he laughed. The tint of fear still hung in his eyes. “I guess I’m a good boy after all.”
“Yeah, looks like I’m going to die.”
“No, you’re not! Don’t say stupid things like that!”
His face fell again.
“Let’s go together.” Suzu reached out and grasped his trembling hands. “Let’s go to Gyouten together.”
“I’m going to Gyouten to see the Imperial Kei. Surely the Empress will be able to heal you. The best doctors are in the Imperial Palace. So shall we?”
Seishuu shook his head. “I don’t think people like that are going to want to see me.”
“But it hurts, doesn’t it? And your headaches are real bad. What happens if things just keep getting worse and worse?”
“Do you think she can heal me?”
“If the Imperial Kei can’t, we’ll go onto Sai. I’m sure the Imperial Sai will.”
“Okay,” Seishuu nodded. A small tear spilled down his cheek. “I’m scared to die.”
“No matter who you are, everybody dies. But you can’t laugh about your own death.”
“Idiot. You’re going to be fine.”
Seishuu laughed and cried at the same time. “It looks like I’m going to have to practice my poker face a lot more.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass.” Seishuu nodded and rested his head in Suzu’s lap. “Everything’s going to be okay,” she said, stroking his back. “I promise.”
Three days later, they finally made it to Goto. Though called a “port,” Goto had no real docks or piers. Instead, a series of large boulders had been sunken off the coast in a gentle arc. The boat anchored to the stones within the arc, and then barges came out from the cliffs to meet them. The barges were from the floating wharf at the foot of the cliffs. From there, a stone stairway carved into the cliff face in switchbacks up to the top of the cliffs.
Suzu helped Seishuu down from the stones, assisting him on his right side. His eyes still hadn’t improved. Since that day when he said he couldn’t see her, the vision on his right side hadn’t returned.
Many times his feet got tangled up and they almost fell. A longshoreman, seeing that Suzu was not able to support Seishuu without losing her own footing, offered to carry him the rest of the way. They arrived at the top of the cliffs out of breath. From there they could survey the whole of the countryside. A long and narrow village spread out along the edge of the cliffs.
The Kingdom of Kei, Wa Province, the port of Goto. They were in the eastern reaches of Wa Province in the northeast quarter of Kei.
Seishuu slid down from the man’s back and took in the landscape. Suzu grasped his hand. They were going to Gyouten. The Imperial Kei was going to help them.