The mourning procession moved slowly; akin to the beating of the grieved Emperor's heart. He sat there in his moving compartment, looking out as each commoner bowed and knelt on all fours in respect for the passing of the Second Prince. Each face that he sees were carefully masked with sorrow, and ignorantly done-up in loyalty. These are simple folks, and the Emperor is glad for it. They do not know of the greater evil that he himself has been spared of, and they no longer need to worry of the drought that could have befallen them. His son's life has been offered in place for the lives of his people. The cruel exchange has been made.
Amongst the multitude of commoners, Tanda the herbalist too got down on all fours and knelt. But his brow knotted in worry as his mind wandered elsewhere. Is Balsa alright? Is her wound closing properly? Have they crossed over safely? How dare she treat him like some common wife? Tanda bit his lip. Something is wrong with this picture here.
He barely noted the slight rustle of cloth on ground as a woman knelt next to her. "Tanda," she whispered. His heart skipped a beat, and danced in joy just as his mind sighed, 'Oh here we go again.'
For even though the woman wore a low hat to keep her face down; Tanda recognized that voice immediately. Next to her, a child sat down and gave him a brief smile. Tanda looked back at the spearwoman next to him and whispered back, "Here for more treatment?"
Balsa nodded. Her diversion attempt had proved successful, though at a price. Her gut wound reopened and she barely made it alongwith Chagum back to Kyousekyou. But she trusts her childhood friend with her life, and Tanda is the crown jewel amongst herbalists.
Chagum himself was transfixed on the procession before him. The steady rhythm of the mourners' moving feet reverberated in his heart. His eyes rested on the wooden coffin that carried no body, but merely an effigy of the Second Prince. Probably a doll made of straws and silk clothes. Sadness welled up within him but there are no tears to let it flow. Chagum the Second Prince is dead as the world and the Imperial Court knows it. There can now only be Chagum and Balsa; his bodyguard.
Still he could not bring himself to look away from the mourning procession; even as the resolve to survive within him grew. This mark of his death shall symbolize his new life.