Chapter 8: A Blessing
~How Much Do I Pay For?~
~How Much Do I Pay For?~
My name is Riku. I am a dog. I have long, soft, white fur. I may always look like I'm smiling, but I was just born with this look: it doesn't necessarily mean I am happy all the time.
My owner is Master Shizu.
We were riding the buggy across a snow-covered plain. As usual, Master Shizu wore a green sweater and a parka. Over his eyes he wore a pair of tinted goggles. I looked ahead from the seat beside him.
The snow that had accumulated over the winter was already melting. It was no longer so deep, and the buggy no longer ended up hitting snowdrifts along the way. But still, all around us was flat whiteness. The sky was covered in dense grey clouds. The morning sun did not show itself.
Master Shizu first drove the buggy along what passed for a road on these snowy plains. Unfortunately, the engine at the rear of the vehicle was in rather bad shape. Sometimes it slowed, and other times it spewed out black smoke or even nearly stopped.
Dismayed, Master Shizu carefully operated the clutch and gear to make sure the engine would not come to a sudden stop.
"I guess that's why proper maintenance is so important." Master Shizu said, his breath visible in the cold.
The buggy's front wheels ploughed through the hardened snow, and the snow chain-equipped back tires dug into the soil underneath as we continued on north.
It was nearly noon when we caught sight of a brown rampart on the horizon. It was a large country that looked as though it was floating over a sea of white.
The high walls of brown bricks encircled the country. Old-fashioned guard towers stuck up from the walls at regular intervals.
Master Shizu applied for entry at the equally old-fashioned gates. The guard asked him how long we were planning to stay.
Master Shizu answered that he would prefer to leave quickly, but that he did not know for certain how long our visit would be.
"We will leave as soon as I get my buggy repaired. We have a schedule to keep, so I'd like to leave as soon as possible."
The guard suggested that we apply for a 10-day visa instead of applying for a set number of days. Master Shizu followed the suggestion.
We rode the mud-covered buggy onto the country's roads.
It had been a long time since we last came to such a prosperous and technologically advanced country. The wide streets were full of traffic. On either side of us were luxurious condos, with potted plants overlooking the streets from their balconies.
Ornate streetlights and trees lined the roads. Affluent-looking people in clean clothing looked at us curiously as they made their way on the sidewalks.
The car repair shop that the guard directed us to was near the centre of the country, a fair distance from the residential quarter. We had the buggy checked as soon as we made it to the shop.
We were told that it would be a simple repair job, but there was no telling how long it might take. They needed to replace a worn-out part of the engine. If a nearby warehouse had the part in stock, repairs would be finished by tomorrow morning. If it wasn't in stock, they would have to make the new part, which would take two to three days. Master Shizu left the buggy in their hands and took down their contact information.
Master Shizu took the large black cloth bag from the buggy and walked along the street. He soon stopped before a large local hotel that the people at the repair shop had directed him to.
"I don't feel like staying in a place like this." he said, and turned away from the beautiful glass-covered building. He then looked around the city from the crossroads, searching for a cheaper place to stay.
Tall buildings were lined up in neat rows in the direction of the southern area. In the north, however, were smaller buildings huddled together in clusters. Master Shizu began to walk north.
We were soon greeted by a sight that could by no means be called clean. The road was narrow, and snow lined its edges. The houses were small and cramped, laundry hanging from their rooftops.
Master Shizu dazedly walked along the chilly, deserted streets. Suddenly, someone came up from behind and stopped us, asking where we were headed.
The man who stopped us was a middle-aged, uniformed man, likely a police officer of some sort. He seemed to be somewhat surprised to see Master Shizu.
"A traveller, I see. I suggest you don't step any further into this area."
The officer explained to us that the country's northern regions were inhabited by its poorest citizens--it was practically a slum district. He added that the people were were essentially of the lowest caste of this nation's class system.
"A caste system, you say?" Master Shizu asked quietly.
"Don't tell me you're some equal rights activist, traveller?" The officer asked.
"That's fine, then. We sometimes get those crazies around here. People who look down upon out caste system, I mean. They call it a cruel and unforgivable system, but our nation has its own history and society. No one likes being told what to do by outlanders."
"I see. I'm not particularly concerned about this nation. I'm merely looking for a cheaper place to stay during my time here, as I'm not one for luxury myself."
"You're a strange one. Do as you like. But let me warn you: the ones ahead of us are all dirt-poor and filthy. Most are unemployed, and half of them live off thievery and by selling off blood and organs. Be aware that law enforcement is practically nonexistent."
"Blood and organs…? I suppose they'd fetch high prices."
"Who knows? It's illegal to remove them from living people, but the higher-ups are regulars, if you know what I mean. They don't really enforce the law."
"Then what about artificial organs?"
"Sure, they're an option, but not unless you're really desperate. There's nothing like the real thing, you know? That's probably why they're so expensive. People around here make money off 'em, and other people get a second chance at life with 'em. Watch your stomach around here, traveller."
Master Shizu thanked the officer, who looked at him like a freak and disappeared.
The further north we went, the dirtier and more run-down the streets became. It was practically a different country than the nation's southern quadrant.
Master Shizu noticed a small alleyway that was relatively crowded. He walked in without hesitation.
Brown houses lined the messy, snow-covered streets. The sight of peeling plaster, broken bricks, and fallen buildings created an overwhelmingly eerie atmosphere.
At intervals along the street were unwelcoming-looking shops with awnings before them. Women listlessly sat on their front porches, and men warmed their hands at a fire burning in a drum canister in the middle of the day. We were an alien sight in this scene--children walking on dirty bare feet occasionally glanced in our direction.
Soon, Master Shizu was approached by a group of young men who obviously had no jobs, but a surplus of time and energy. They blocked our way and glared at Master Shizu, but the aftermath was just as I had expected.
Master Shizu did not even blink as he asked them for directions to an affordable hotel in the area. The men attacked Master Shizu at once, and were knocked out with ease. In crime-infested areas like this, it was usually best to make a flashy show of strength in order to avoid trouble later.
Master Shizu asked the men for directions once again, and this time they personally led us to a nearby hotel. It was a small and messy place on the second floor of a restaurant, but the hotel was located in a relatively developed area of town.
The hotel employee led us to a tiny room containing nothing but a bed and a chair. The only source of heat was a small electric stove.
"This is satisfactory." Master Shizu said plainly to the landlady.
Master Shizu returned to the room around evening. He told me that the owner of the repair shop was flabbergasted to hear that we were staying in a hotel like this.
Master Shizu took out his sword from his bag. It was his favourite, housed in a black scabbard. He slowly drew out the blade. There was not a single blemish on its surface. Master Shizu then sheathed the sword.
"Let me ask you again." I began, "Are you really going to go, Master Shizu?"
It was a question I had asked many times before.
Master Shizu's answer was one I had heard many times before.
He recounted his reasons--reasons he had told me many times before.
And with an awfully familiar conclusion to his explanation, Master Shizu ended the conversation.
I sighed and lay down beside the bed, just as a small knock sounded at the door. I had felt a vague presence in the hallway outside of us for some time now.
Master Shizu got off the bed and walked up to the door. He slowly opened it.
Outside the door was a young girl.
She was perhaps about twelve years old. Her long black hair was tied into pigtails.
She was wearing a purple, multilayered dress that was native to this country. And just like that of the other people in the area, it was very messy. Even her shoes were worn and ridden with holes.
"What is it?" Master Shizu asked, surprised. The girl just looked up at him for several seconds. She was so short that she only reached up to his chest. The girl then showed us the large basket she carried on her back.
"Hello, sir. I gather and sell scrap metal. Do you have any to spare?" She asked quietly.
Master Shizu shook his head. "But I have a loudmouthed dog here, if you want to take him."
"That's terrible, Master Shizu." I complained.
"I'm kidding." Master Shizu then turned to the girl at the door. "We just arrived in this country. I'm sorry, but we don't have anything for you."
The girl apologized and bowed her head slightly.
Master Shizu shut the door. The moment it closed, I caught sight of the girl raising her head again. She was looking in this direction, and I could tell that there was a strange glint in her eyes.
She had a look of fierce determination. It wasn't the kind of expression I expected to see on a dirt-faced girl living in dire poverty.
The next morning, Master Shizu and I were having breakfast on the second floor. He was ripping off pieces of bread and eating them. I put my share on the floor in front of me and waited for Master Shizu to finish eating. The street outside was rather lively. The sun was shining warmly over the ground.
The girl from yesterday walked into the restaurant. I looked at her.
She approached Master Shizu just as he finished his bread and started on his pea soup.
"Good morning, Master Shizu!" She spoke brightly and clearly, standing with her back to the sun. It was a complete 180 from her attitude the day before.
Master Shizu stopped and looked at the girl.
"My name's Rafah!" The girl introduced herself. She then made a shocking proposal.
"Master Shizu, please purchase me!"
"What…?" Master Shizu was understandably taken aback.
"Please buy me, Master Shizu! I'll be glad to work for you!" Rafah smiled.
Master Shizu looked at Rafah curiously. There was not a hint of hesitation in her eyes.
"I don't understand." Said Master Shizu.
"I can explain! Master Shizu, you'll give me money, then I'll become your possession. I'll follow you on your travels outside the country. I'll do my best and work as your servant!"
"…I don't need a servant." Master Shizu answered simply, and returned to his breakfast. Rafah pressed on, undeterred.
"Please, let me explain! I want to leave this country. Low-class people like me have to live in poverty for the rest of our lives. I can't go to school because I have to work and earn money. I'm sick of living like this. I want to get out of here, but I can't! People like us can't leave the country as we please. But if you purchase me, Master Shizu, I'll become your possession, and I can leave the country with you!"
Master Shizu ignored her and focused on his meal.
"Please! Please buy me!"
"You won't regret it! I'm a hard worker!"
"I can cook for you! I'll do your laundry! I can sew really well!"
"And… it's a bit embarrassing, but since I'm a girl… if you want, Master Shizu, you can lie with your head in my lap and I can sing you lullabies!"
Master Shizu ignored all her offers and finished his breakfast.
He wiped his mouth and gestured at Rafah to stop following him around. He then asked the employee in the kitchen to borrow the phone, and made a call with the rickety machine on the wall.
I stopped mid-meal and looked up at Rafah. She crouched down in front of me.
"Hey, boy. What do you think I can say to make him buy me?"
I told her that I didn't know. If I did, things might have been much easier.
Master Shizu came back. Rafah stood up again and pointed to me.
"See? I just talked to your doggy here, and he smiled and agreed with me! Right, boy?"
Please don't put me on the spot like that.
"I was just born with this face. …I'm not particularly in agreement at the moment."
"That doesn't matter! Please, take me with you. Please buy me!"
The people around us ignored the commotion Rafah was making in the restaurant and remained silent. Were they in agreement with her, or were they just unconcerned?
Master Shizu looked at me.
"You can eat now, Riku. And as for the repair job…"
He glanced at Rafah, then turned back to me with a look that was a mixture of 'I don't care' and 'I don't want to say this in front of her'.
"They're going to take two more days or so."
"So please! Buy me! Take me with you! Please!"
Rafah followed Master Shizu up the stairs, all the way to our door. Her high-pitched voice rang out through the hallway.
In the end, I had lost my mealtime. I took my food in my mouth and approached the room.
Master Shizu opened the door and looked back out towards me.
"Yes, Master Shizu?"
"So your name's Riku, huh? It's nice to meet you, Riku, and you too, Master Shizu. So-"
"Take care of the rest."
Before I could continue with my line of questioning, Master Shizu shut the door in my face and locked it from the inside.
Rafah pouted from over my head.
"Hey, Riku. How do you think I can get him to like me?"
I don't know.
"Stop smiling and answer me!"
"I'm not smiling."
Rafah told me that she had to work all day today, so she had no choice but to leave for now. She then told me that she would come back as many times as it took to convince Master Shizu to buy her, and departed.
"That doesn't matter to me." Master Shizu said, once I entered the room and conveyed her message to him.
Master Shizu spent the entire day in his room. He sat on the chair in the cold room and stared at the same point on the wall for long periods of time, and sometimes he drew his sword and stared at the blade. He did nothing else--not even go down for lunch.
I silently sat or lay down beside Master Shizu. The sun continued to move, changing the shadows it cast from outside the window.
By evening, the sun began disappearing into the northwestern sky, filling the room with orange light.
"I just have to make it to that country…" Master Shizu whispered, speaking for the first time in half a day.
"I think it would be best to make sure the buggy is fully repaired before we set out. We can't have it break down all of a sudden before we reach the country." I said. Master Shizu laughed--not out of joy, but bitterly.
"Then it's simple. We just wait for someone to attack us, and take their vehicle instead. It's all the same in the end. No one can complain."
Master Shizu interrupted me with a gentle voice.
"You can't stop me, Riku."
"Good evening, Master Shizu! Have you decided to buy me now?"
Rafah came to see us again around dinnertime. The sun had already set; the streets outside were dark. In her basket was a meagre pile of scrap metal--the harvest of a hard day's work.
"Not yet." Master Shizu replied tersely, not even looking at her.
"'Not yet'? Then will you buy me tomorrow?"
"I don't know."
"That's fine with me! You can buy me tomorrow, or even the day after!"
"I don't care when you buy me!"
"But I don't have any time left today, so I'll come see you again tomorrow!"
"Good night, Master Shizu! You too, Riku!"
Rafah disappeared like the wind. Master Shizu continued to silently eat his dinner.
The next day was the third day of our stay.
As Rafah did not visit during breakfast, Master Shizu relaxed and took his time eating. He contacted the repair shop, and was told that the replacement part would be completed today; the repairs would be finished by tomorrow morning.
"So I guess we're leaving tomorrow morning."
I asked Master Shizu what we would do until then.
"Do we even have anything to do?" He answered.
Master Shizu returned to the room, and rested on his chair as he did yesterday. I could not tell whether he was dazed or deep in thought.
Soon the sky was covered by dark clouds. It looked as though it would start snowing any minute. Master Shizu, however, remained seated on his chair like some elderly hermit, not even turning on the light.
He would have likely remained in that position all day if not for Rafah's visit at around lunchtime.
"Hello, Master Shizu!"
There was a loud knock on the door, and the door opened before Master Shizu could even respond.
Rafah allowed herself in. Today, she was not carrying her uncomfortably large basket.
"I begged really hard to get the day off today!" She explained, without even being asked.
Master Shizu glanced at Rafah from the chair. He then began to act as though she wasn't even there.
"So no I can stay here all day! Please buy me, Master Shizu! Please! Get me out of this country!"
Rafah's demands continued. But Master Shizu remained lost in his own world, as if he had perfected some technique to ignore all that went on in the world around him.
Rafah went on talking tirelessly, making me wonder where all of her boundless energy came from. I looked upon them with astonishment and shock.
About an hour had passed.
"My family's always been really poor. They couldn't afford to send me to school, so I can't find a good job. So we can only get poorer and poorer." Rafah said.
Master Shizu finally glanced over at Rafah.
"I want to ask you one thing." He finally spoke.
"Yes! What is it?"
"Do you have any family?"
Rafah's face suddenly lost its energy.
"Yes…" She answered, her tone several notes lower than before.
"What do they do?"
"My dad can't find any work, so… he just lazes around all day. Mom's always really busy doing housework, and my younger siblings are all still too young to work… but I'm the oldest of the seven of us."
"So you're the only one in your family who's earning any money?"
Master Shizu leaned on his chair for a moment, then stood. Rafah took a step back.
"Answer me honestly. If you were to disappear, your family would lose its only source of income. How will the rest of your family survive?" Master Shizu asked clearly looking straight at Rafah.
There was a moment of silence.
"Who cares? They'll find jobs somehow. They can work all day and not go to school, just like I'm doing now." Rafah answered stoically.
"I see. In other words, you don't care what happens to your parents and siblings?" Master Shizu asked in a slightly sarcastic tone. Rafah looked--no, glared--back at Master Shizu. She nodded her head sharply.
"Yes. As long as I'm happy, I don't care. You have to make your own life, you know. I'm here right now because I want to reach for my dreams. That's why I'm asking you to buy me, Master Shizu. I'll never have another chance like this. so please… Please buy me…"
Rafah clasped her hands over her chest as if in prayer, and tightly shut her eyes.
"Stubborn kid." Master Shizu said. There was a smile on his lips. Who was he really talking about?
"How much?" Master Shizu asked.
"Huh?" Rafah opened her eyes in surprise.
"I said, how much will it cost for me to buy you?"
It took a rather long time for Rafah to calm down. I did not know if the price she offered was cheap or expensive for human trafficking, but Master Shizu did not think on it and gave his answer.
We were told that Rafah would legally become Master Shizu's possession if he paid the fee to the town hall nearby.
Rafah asked us when we were planning to leave. Master Shizu told her that we were due to depart tomorrow afternoon. We would spend the morning getting the buggy back, shopping for supplies, and buying Rafah.
Rafah agreed, and we promised to meet up at the town entrance tomorrow afternoon.
"You have to keep your promise, okay? If you don't, I… I…" Rafah went over the promise over and over again.
"All right. I'm a man of my word. But try not to bring too many belongings with you." Master Shizu replied.
"Don't worry, Master Shizu! I'm not going to bring anything with me!"
It was evening. I watched as Master Shizu polished his sword in the small, lamp-lit room.
"I'm glad we have a new travelling companion." I said.
Master Shizu looked up at me.
"Riku. I'm going to abandon that girl as soon as we get out of this country. I don't care what happens to her afterwards."
"She'd die quickly. She's not a dog, Master Shizu."
"Then we'll abandon her at the next country we reach. She'll be able to at least make a living as a housekeeper there. As long as she works hard and luck is on her side, she'll be able to make a good life for herself."
"But Master Shizu, the next country is…" I said tentatively. Master Shizu's eyes widened.
"I'd forgotten…" Master Shizu was shocked. "What am I doing…?" He shook his head, astonished.
"How about we take a short detour to drop her off someplace, Master Shizu? It would delay our plans, but…" I suggested tentatively, knowing that it would fall on deaf ears.
"I can't do that. …When the time comes… I'll leave it to you, Riku."
The next morning was a cloudy day. Master Shizu and I headed for the factory in order to pick up the buggy. The repair shop gave us the fixed buggy and the worn-out engine parts.
We then bought food and supplies in the southern district, a world apart from the northern area where we had stayed. Master Shizu silently picked up more supplies than usual.
We reached the village entrance. Rafah was not alone. She was accompanied by what looked to be her family--a young mother and father, and six younger siblings.
Rafah happily waved at us. In contrast, her parents and siblings cried silently. They asked nothing of us, nor did they blame us. They merely watched as she left their presence.
"Goodbye." Rafah said, and took my passenger seat. She was wearing her usual purple dress, and had brought nothing with her. She really had come with nothing. I surrendered the passenger seat and retreated to the luggage hold in the back.
"Is this really all right?" Master Shizu asked.
"Yes. Let's go. The town hall's first." She answered.
Master Shizu turned away from her weeping family and started the buggy.
We went through immigrations at the country's walls. The guard was shocked to see Rafah.
"Mr. Traveller, sir? Why is a dirty little girl of the lower class-"
"I have my reasons." Master Shizu answered. Rafah showed the guard her own receipt in turn.
"That's right. I'm one of Master Shizu's possessions now. Is there a problem?"
The guard shook his head.
We had just stopped by town hall to buy Rafah. The employee looked shocked by the amount of money Master Shizu paid.
"This is my address. Please make sure to tell my family that I've been sold. Please." Rafah had said. The man did not say anything else.
The gates slowly opened.
The heavy doors gave way to the sight of a snow-covered horizon.
Rafah stood up from her seat, captivated by the wondrous sight. She then stopped in place as though she was frozen.
Outside the country's walls were a snow-covered plain. Winter was almost at an end. The snow would soon melt, and grass would cover the lands in verdant green.
Master Shizu drove the buggy outside the castle walls. He quickly put the snow chains on the tires, as Rafah looked out at the white fields under the grey skies. The castle gates closed behind us.
"Aren't you cold, dressed like that?" Master Shizu asked, putting on his parka. Rafah merely answered that she was used to the cold.
"Anyway, let's hurry! We have to get out into that plain, where we can't see the castle walls! Quickly!"
Master Shizu started the buggy. The engine ran smoothly, no longer spouting black smoke.
The Buggy drove onward.
It was not long afterwards.
the buggy had not been going for long. We had gone far enough for Rafah's homeland to have disappeared out of sight beyond the horizon.
"Please, stop." Rafah said suddenly.
Master Shizu looked to his right. Rafah looked to her left.
"Please, stop the buggy."
Master Shizu did as she asked. We were in the middle of the snow fields, in the centre of the horizon that circled around us.
"What is it?"
Rafah did not answer; she just stepped off the buggy. She quietly walked upon the snow field, leaving her footprints behind her.
She then stopped. She stood on the field with her back to us. If a bird were to pass by overhead, it would see a buggy and a young girl standing a short distance away.
"How long are you going to stand there? We're going to leave you behind." Master Shizu said, putting on his goggles. He didn't sound at all angry, however.
Rafah turned back to face us. Her pigtails shook.
She then smiled.
"Yes. That's what you're going to do."
Master Shizu, confused, said something he had said to her before.
"I don't understand."
"I'm going to die soon." Rafah replied. Master Shizu cut the engine. The sound of the buggy soon disappeared from the windless plain.
"It's because I'm going to die soon." Rafah reiterated.
Master Shizu stepped off the buggy and approached Rafah. She then began to explain her situation. I listened from the buggy.
"I sold my organs at the hospital this morning. I'm being supported by some weird machines inside my body right now. And they told me that the machines and the painkillers won't last more than half a day."
"But why did you do this?"
"I needed money. The money I earned from my organs, and the fee you paid to purchase me--it was much higher than the regular market value. And my family's going to get it all."
"Then what happens?"
"That's a huge amount of money. It's enough to feed my family for the next few years. My siblings can all go to school now. they won't have to work like I did. They can graduate from school and find better jobs. And they'll have much better lives."
"And I got to see the world outside for the first and last time. I've always wondered what it was like."
Rafah again looked towards the distant horizon. Master Shizu stood beside her and looked into the same direction. They stood side-by-side, their backs turned towards me. The tall Master Shizu, and Rafah, who didn't even reach up to his shoulders.
"In other words," Master Shizu said. "You tricked me. You made me waste my money on this."
"Yes. I'm sorry." Rafah answered, eyes refusing to waver from their focus.
"You say you're sorry, but you don't actually feel that way, right?"
"Nope. Not at all."
I heard a small, bitter chuckle. It must have been Master Shizu.
"You're going to die soon, too, Master Shizu. Right?"
They continued talking, standing side-by-side on the snow-covered plains. I watched them from atop the hood of the buggy.
"That's what you said, right? I heard everything."
"You mean, when I was arguing with Riku on my first night here? I guess I did."
I'd heard it too.
"I heard you say, 'There's something I have to do, even if I have to die for it', Master Shizu. Hearing you say that, I realized for the first time in my life that a way like that even existed. I knew that even I had that option. So I decided to go through with it. That's why I decided to trick you."
"This was what I was meant to do. Master Shizu. You gave me this first and final chance--the one chance for me to create my own destiny."
Rafah then looked up at Master Shizu and smiled.
"And it worked."
"'All's well that ends well'." Said Master Shizu.
"What does that mean?"
"It's a saying in my hometown. It means that your methods or reasons don't matter, as long as the outcome is good. The last thing you ever accomplish decides the worth of your life--it might be slightly different, but it sounds about right."
"Now that I think about it, I think it would be really fun to live and travel with you, Master Shizu. But you're going to accomplish your goal and die in the next country, right? So that's not possible. It's not an option, for either of us."
"That's right. It's impossible."
"Then I think it's best to say goodbye here."
"Um, there's one last thing… My stomach's started hurting, little by little. It's kind of stupid to say this now, but I'm really scared of pain. So Master Shizu?"
"Yes… I understand."
Rafah nodded slightly, satisfied.
She then looked out into the snow-covered fields.
It was a bleak sight of endless white.
"The outside world is so beautiful, Master Shizu."
"Yes. Maybe you're right."
"I wonder… are there places even more wonderful than this?"
"I'm not sure."
She then turned towards Master Shizu. Master Shizu turned to face her.
Rafah softly reached out to Master Shizu's cheeks.
"I'll pray that you accomplish your goal, Master Shizu."
"I'll make sure I do. I won't need to ask for god's help in finishing my job without hesitation." Master Shizu replied.
"Could you crouch down a bit?" Rafah asked. Master Shizu knelt on the ground. Rafah closed her eyes and softly kissed him on the forehead.
"It's a blessing." She said, embarrassed. She then spoke her final words.
"I'll be waiting."
Master Shizu nodded.
Master Shizu knew very well ways to inflict unimaginable pain upon a man before killing him.
He also knew very well ways to do just the opposite.
Master Shizu placed Rafah's body upon the snow, knelt beside it, and closed his eyes.
I jumped off the buggy and stepped through the snow, to his side.
Master Shizu opened his eyes and looked at me. He then looked at Rafah, who slept before us.
"What a wonderful smile. I hope I can die like this as well."
Master Shizu wore a peaceful smile--one that I had never seen before. It was wonderful, just like the one Rafah had departed with.
The sound of a shovel digging into the muddy ground rang out across the windless plain.
It soon turned into the sound of the ground being covered again.
Master Shizu returned to the buggy, carrying a dirt-covered shovel. I had never seen him cry until now, and I still did not see him do so.
He fastened the shovel back in the luggage hold and took the driver's seat. He then turned to me, standing on the snow beside him.
"Looks like she managed to do this even before I could. And there's no way I can't do what she's done just now. I'd be nothing but a fool if I couldn't. Let's get going, Riku." Master Shizu said cheerfully, putting on his goggles.
"Let me ask you again, Master Shizu. Perhaps you could reconsider?"
"There's no time. We'll just barely make it if we leave now. The buggy's in good shape, too."
Master Shizu started the engine.
I looked up at Master Shizu. He looked ahead.
"What are you going to do, Riku? Are you going to say goodbye to me, too?"
"No, Master Shizu. I will follow you to the end."
"Then come on up."
I jumped onto the hood and took my place in the passenger seat. And I looked ahead as I always did.
Master Shizu reached out with his right hand and gave me a pat on the head.
We rode the buggy across the snow-covered plain, the clear sound of the engine ringing out across the fields.
The buggy's front wheels ploughed through the hardened snow, and the snow chain-equipped back tires dug into the soil underneath as we continued on north.
We headed to Master Shizu's hometown, the land of carnage.
--Road to "Colosseum"