Takishi stepped out of the shadows and into the warmth of Darshana’s sun. A slow smile spread across his face as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath of fresh air. So satisfying after the many hours spent inside the freight shuttle. Suddenly, he paused, his breath coming out in a gasp, Takishi opened his eyes and looked around, searching…looking..but nothing – he was alone. Could he have been mistaken? He relaxed again, concentrated. Yes. Although it had been years since they had seen each other he sensed Sheyan’s gentle energy. This fact surprised Takishi, he mused on why the elders would bring them together now. They had gone to such great lengths to keep them apart.
Takishi’s head filled with images of the past, and for a moment he forgot where he was until his thoughts were interrupted by footsteps echoing in the empty courtyard. Takishi looked up and into the grinning face of an old friend.
“Takishi!” Lydon greeted his friend warmly, “it’s so good to see you again, it has been far too long.”
He smiled at Takishi, holding the man at arm’s length, giving him the once over. “The years have treated you well, my friend.”
“As they have you,” Takishi replied smiling, “Although I definitely have a few grey hairs since we last met! It’s very good to see you Lydon, I’m glad to have a guide going into the Plains, it’s not somewhere I would like to go alone.”
“Ah, but you’re not alone,” Lydon linked his arm through Takishi’s and lead him away from the space-port, towards a nearby building. “One of your kind is already here.”
Takishi hesitated at the doorway. “Did he tell you his name?”
Lydon stepped away from Takishi, a frown on his face. “What’s going on Taki? You seem a little nervous, that’s not like you.”
Takishi looked up into the bright blue sky, he loved Darshana, it was like a second home to him, he knew the cities well, but the Plains not at all, he wondered why he had been chosen for this. And why they had sent…
He looked back at his friend waiting patiently for an answer.
“Was his name…Sheyan?” It came out in a whisper, he bit his lip, the boy’s name… although he must be a man now… was hard to say.
Lydon looked confused, but nodded. “Yes, I believe it was.”
Takishi looked back to the sky,
The man turned, a flicker of uncertainty crossing his face before he recognized the figure before him.
“Sensei…Taki…?” He uttered in disbelief, stumbling over the words. “How can this be?”
Takishi smiled and moved towards Sheyan, placing a hand upon his shoulder.
“I believe we’ve both been summoned,” he paused, looking directly into Sheyan’s deep brown eyes before continuing. “It is good to see you Sheyan.”
Sheyan placed a hand upon Takishi’s own and nodded.
“I am happy to see you as well Takishi, though I cannot help but feel that this meeting is no coincidence.”
Takishi’s eyes lit up. “Ever suspicious I see.”
“No,” Sheyan corrected, smiling. “Just cautious.”
Takishi nodded, resisting the urge to hold Sheyan in his arms and speak the hundreds of conversations that were racing through his head. Instead he moved away, walking stiffly as he tried to contain himself. Bending over his bag he looked through his supplies again, trying to give no outward display of how he really felt. After what seemed like hours he turned to speak to Sheyan again, but the younger man had gone and Lydon stood in his place.
“Ready, my friend?”
Takishi slung his pack over his shoulder.
Lydon began the journey by offering a quick prayer to the local deities. Takishi and Sheyan lowered their heads, honouring the custom. Takishi could not help but glance at Sheyan. He had not seen the boy, now a man, since he turned nineteen, the blonde curls had darkened and were shorn close to his head, his face was fuller, stronger and his hands and face littered with marks… scars from battles he had fought without Takishi’s aid. Takishi closed his eyes, fighting to hold back all the feelings he had buried so long ago. He concentrated on Lydon’s words.
“We ask that you guide us in our quest…Thank you Great Mother.”
Takishi did not move until he sensed Lydon’s eyes upon him.
“Time to go my friend.”
They made their way out of the city. It was a busy, bustling place, many people came to Darshana’s capitol city of Turoo to trade and the three companions did not look out of place amongst all the hustle and bustle. Once they left the city and began to head into the Plains the people and noise disappeared and Takishi let out an audible sigh of relief.
Lydon laughed, “Still prefer your own company I see.”
Takishi nodded, taking a swig of water from his bottle.
He walked a little behind Lydon and Sheyan, he liked listening to them talk. He was often told he was a wonderful listener, a trait that hid his difficulty in holding up his own end of the conversation.
“Isn’t that right Taki?”
Takishi looked up at his name, “What?”
“Lost in thought, old man?” Lydon joked, “I was telling Sheyan about the Kohla tribe. Greedy lot, as long as we have the gold they’ll probably barter.”
Takishi looked to Sheyan, “Think you’re up for that?”
A look of surprise crossed Sheyan’s face before he grinned, “Yes, Sensei.”
Takishi couldn’t helped but raise an eyebrow, but he said nothing.
They walked like this for most of the morning. Lydon at the lead following a road that was invisible to the other two. Sheyan a step or two behind, conversing occasionally with Lydon and throwing the odd glance over his shoulder at Takishi.
Eventually they stopped for some lunch. The midday heat was unbearable and they found a decent sized wagasa tree they could all fit under.
“We’ll wait for half an hour,” Lydon bit into his durani fruit, the juice dripping down his chin. “The heat isn’t so bad after midday.”
Takishi nodded, packing the remains of his lunch away and leaning against the smooth trunk of the tree. “I’m not going to argue with that.” He looked at Sheyan, but he had already closed his eyes and appeared to be asleep.
Takishi gave a soft snort of laughter. “Sheyan could always fall asleep anywhere, any-time.” He smiled at the memories.
Lydon laughed, “Well, we’ll have to wake him soon enough, we have a good deal further to travel today. The main road crosses over this smaller one soon. Hopefully that will give us some clues.”
A look of surprise passed over Takishi’s face, “This is a road?”
“Yes,” Lydon grinned, “It’s all about knowing the landscape, recognizing landmarks. Trust me I know where we are.”
Takishi nodded, “I do trust you Lydon.” He glanced at Sheyan, his face softening.
Lydon saw the look, “Takishi,” he began, his voice curious. Takishi raised a hand.
“Later Lydon, later.”
Lydon bent down examining some tracks in the dusty make-shift road. Takishi looked into the distance, nothing but scrub bushes and the odd tree, a river glimmered in the mid-day sun in the distance. An odd hare had crossed their path since they left Turoo, but the place was strangely quiet.
“We’re lucky,” Lydon announced straightening up and brushing the dirt from his fingers, “those we seek have been through here recently. It probably won’t be more than a few days travel till we find their camp.”
They walked for the rest of the day, stopping only as the fierce heat of the day began to ebb away and the light’s strength fade.
“We’ll set up here,” Lydon tugged his pack and tossed it to the floor. Takishi sat down grateful that they had stopped, his feet were sore and he was tired and hot. He couldn’t help but think he was too old for quests like these. Lydon and Sheyan set about preparing the camp for the night and Takishi made use of his status as the eldest among them to sit back and do nothing.
“We’re going to bathe down by the river,” a low voice jolted Takishi awake, his head lost in dreams.
“Shey?” He looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun. Sheyan knelt beside him.
“It’s me…” he trailed off, kneeling at Takishi’s side.
“For a moment,” Takishi sat up, “I thought it was all a dream.”
“Sheyan!” Lydon called from a little way off, his voice breaking the moment.
Sheyan stood, “We’ll be back soon.”
Takishi watched him walk away.
“Supper’s not long off,” Lydon bent over the fire and gave the stew a stir, before looking at Takishi. His naked chest gleamed in the sun as he washed with the river water Lydon and Sheyan had brought back for him.
Lydon gestured to Takishi’s shoulder. “Sheyan has a mark, a tattoo just like that.”
Takishi nodded before pulling on his shirt, a slight smile playing on his lips.
“Yes,” he murmured, looking towards Sheyan’s tent, “he does.”
Lydon sat next to the fire, throwing a handful of dry sticks onto it. The crackling echoed in the still air.
“Is it a Sensei/Deshi thing?”
Takishi sat down next to Lydon. “Something like that.”
Lydon nodded thoughtfully, they both sat in silence for a while before Lydon spoke quietly.
“Here, that means something else,” he paused, “it’s something a bonded pair would have done.” He looked at Takishi. “You love him don’t you?”
Takishi sighed, glancing again towards Sheyan’s tent before replying. “That was a long time ago Lydon…and it was wrong then. When the elders found out they sent Sheyan away. We had tried to wait, he was almost nineteen…just a few months more and his training would have been finished,” his stopped, his voice heavy with regret. “I was irresponsible…I acted impulsively and because of that I lost him…and he lost the chance to progress, to become a Sensei himself…and I will never be an elder. It was our punishment.”
“But, “Lydon asked, his voice soft, “You are still allowed to be Heiwa?”
Takishi nodded, “Yes, there are too few of us for them to do otherwise. Although there are some who would have seen us thrown from the Heiwa. We are sent on missions, but never together. I have lived outside of the Tera since that time.”
Lydon placed his arm around Takishi’s shoulder.
“My friend, ” he began gently, stopping as Sheyan emerged from his tent and stretched. Glancing over to the two men by the fire, a look of sadness passed over his face. Slowly, he made his way towards them. Lydon stood up awkwardly.
“Shey, I was just about to wake you…time for supper.”
Sheyan nodded, a tight smile on his lips.
“Thanks,” he looked at Takishi, but the older man, was gazing into the fire – lost in thoughts of the past.
The next day passed much the same, and the next. Sheyan seemed to avoid Takishi and Lydon as much as possible. The atmosphere was tense, Takishi longed to speak to Sheyan and spent each night laying awake gazing at the stars…imagining what he might say.
On the forth day Lydon went ahead, sensing they were near to their destination. He could move faster alone and promised he would return shortly.
“Just wait here for me,” were his parting words.
Takishi watched as his friend grew smaller in the distance before turning back to Sheyan. He had propped himself up against a wagasa tree and Takishi was happy to join him under the huge drooping leaves.
“Keisha,” Sheyan announced without warning, his eyes fixed firmly on the ground, “this is Keisha’s doing.”
Takishi took a deep breathe and allowed himself a smile. Of course!
Sheyan glanced at him.
“She is an elder now, did you know that? You’re never at the Tera, not since…” Sheyan’s voice trailed off, looking into the distance. “She has always been on our side, she always fought for us to be promoted, to be…together.” He stopped, and took a swig from his water bottle.
“I heard that she had been excepted as an elder,” Takishi spoke quietly, “I am proud of her, she was a wonderful Deshi, a good friend…and I believe your feelings are right. Things are changing, the elders are changing…perhaps.” His voice trailed off…it was now or never.
“Sheyan,” Takishi, faced away from his former Deshi, his voice barely more then a whisper.
“I’m sorry for everything, for what happened. That you were unable to complete your training.”
He paused, unable to continue, unable to look at Sheyan.
“Sensei, Takishi,” Sheyan’s voice shook with emotion.”That didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was losing you.”
Takishi closed his eyes, he longed to hold Shey in his arms, to cry, to love, tears leaked from his eyes and he held out his hand, slowly Sheyan’s fingers softly entwined with his own.
Takishi and Sheyan followed Lydon across the dunes. Sheyan’s hand slipped from Takishi’s own as they reached the top of a large sand bank. Far below them was a gathering of purple tents. A flag rising from the largest tent. A blue star with a yellow owl in it’s centre.
“We’ve found it,” Shey turned to Taki, a smile, lighting his face, his eyes bright.
Takishi hadn’t taken his eyes off Sheyan, and he returned the grin. “So we have,” he replied, taking Sheyan’s hand once more.
“So we have.”
Translation of words – To the best of my knowledge these translate as the following:
Takishi – noble, prosperous, reverence. (Japanese)
Sheyan – the last sun rays of the sunset. (Chinese)
Sensei – used to refer to or address teachers, professors and professionals and other figures of authority. (Japanese)
Deshi – pupil, disciple, adherent, follower, apprentice. (Japanese)