Koumyou Sanzo hurried past the body of the dead girl, down the bank and into the numbingly cold river. Searching frantically he caught sight of what he'd been looking for - just in time to see the tiny boy slip beneath the water.
Moments later Koumyou reemerged from the river, soaked and shivering, clutching the child to him and calling for dry robes.
As Koumyou swadded the oddly-quiet baby in spare clothes, a monk asked, "Master, the woman. . .?"
"Bury her, chant a sutra for her if you want. The living have nothing to offer the dead. Kouryuu's is the only life which matters to me."
Koumyou smiled down at the little boy occupying his lap. He handed Kouryuu another slice of fruit, which the toddler promptly shoved into his mouth.
"Sanzo-sama!" one of the monks kneeling in front of him said loudly, frustrated. It was clearly not the first time he'd attempted to get his master's attention.
"Yes?" Koumyou replied mildly, wiping juice from his fingers.
"Must you pay so much attention to the child? You're not even listening to what we have to say!"
"Perhaps. But then, Kouryuu doesn't bother me with petty arguments and complaints."
Chastised, the monks bowed and hurriedly took their leave.
Koumyou laughed; the warm sound filling the crisp autumn air of the temple courtyard. Two-year-old Kouryuu had tumbled face-first into a pile of leaves, and the expression on the toddler's face as he sat there unsure whether or not to cry was precious.
Still smiling, Koumyou abandoned his place on the porch and scooped up his adopted son, holding the baby close, bouncing gently. "Ah, Kouryuu! You're so adorable!" Koumyou exclaimed.
"You'll spoil him, talking like that," Shuuei admonished.
Koumyou feigned concern. "Oh? You think so?"
Shuuei turned away to hide his amusement.
"Come, Kouryuu. Time for a nap."
Koumyou ached from the cold, a physical reminder of the many battles which had come before, the fresh wound in his side throbbing in hot counterpoint. His divine errand complete, Koumyou began the painful journey home, thinking only of his darling Kouryuu. He could hear the child's inner voice calling to him, and sensing fear and worry there, quickened his pace.
Kouryuu met him at the temple gates, flinging small arms around Koumyou's legs and burying his tear-streaked face into his father's filthy robes.
"Why are you crying?" Koumyou asked, patting the sobbing child's head.
"You left!" came the muffled reply.