Asha has been disappearing at night and it is starting to make Rei worry. One night Rei decides to follow him. (sequel to The Dunes of the Sukuwa)
The Shinjuu River flowed alongside the city of Yuru Tami and provided the otherwise landlocked area with valuable resources and an eventual passage to the ocean. The goddess of the river, Nagare, was a favorite deity of many, fisher men, peasants, and warriors alike. Before scout pairs went out into the desert they would spend the night on the shores of the river praying to Nagare to keep them safe. When someone died it was traditional for a family to light a floating candle and let it go on the river, a symbolic ritual that showed that the family had completed their grieving and were letting their loved one’s soul go free.
Rei awoke to cool night air and an empty space in bed with him. His fingers blindly reached for Asha even though he knew he wasn’t there. He sighed and rolled over onto his back, his eyes trained on the ceiling. Cracks dotted the cement above his head, a constant that allowed him to calm his nerves as he counted them.
Asha had been disappearing during the night regularly and it sent Rei’s mind racing, his imagination painting elaborate scenarios in his head of what might be happening. He trusted Asha, but he couldn’t help the feeling of unease that was curling in the pit of his stomach. He threw the covers off of his body and hesitantly sat up. Was he really going to follow Asha? He felt like he was crossing some kind of invisible line not only as Asha’s lover but also as his scouting partner. They were supposed to trust each other completely and if he followed Asha he was breaking that trust. He let his feet rest on the cool stone floor as he considered his options, weighing the results and his feelings. In the end his concern won out and he slipped on his sandals and out of their shared room.
The corridors of the barracks were quiet, the other soldiers and leaders still asleep. Rei guessed that it was about four in the morning from the position of the moon which meant that the buildings would stay that way for another two hours at least.