What the Day Demands

"What then is your duty? What the day demands." - Johann Goethe

* * * * *

He stood at the edge of his room, amber eyes staring steadily out at the back yard of the inn through the open screens. Everything, from the smooth, polished wood of the porch and the rough gravel beyond, was painted in the same heavy darkness. All was silent and peaceful in this eerie hour. The wind that had sent dead leaves and twigs scratching and scraping across the ground like skeletal fingers last night was quiet now, only whispering in branches and sending slight puffs of air to stir the nodding lilies now and then. The sun would not rise for several hours yet, and so there were no dogs barking, no roosters crowing, and no servants dragging their sleep-heavy bodies out of their warm beds to shiver over kitchen fires and whisper in corners about the inn's guests. And all of the men who had trod back to this inn last night covered from head to toe in tacky, half-dried blood were now bathed and changed and sleeping heavily, exhausted from their deadly work the evening before. Well, all except for one.

Saitou had returned with the others, shed his blue and white and crimson haori so that it could be washed right away, and fallen to cleaning his sword before even thinking of attending to his own body, just as they all had. He had wiped away all traces of blood, oiled and polished the blade, and then carefully set his katana and wakizashi on the stand in his room. And then a bath, with the rest of his layers of clothing peeling from him in stiff folds, flakes of reddish brown littering the floor as he undressed. Savage scrubbing bleached his body of the blood of many, and a long, hot soak in the scalding bath helped to chase away whatever worries and thoughts remained despite the calming ritual of cleaning his katana.

And after the swords were cleaned and his body washed and clothed in a clean yukata, after a brief meal in the crowded kitchen that he barely tasted amidst conversation that he could not remember, he went to his room and slept for an hour before waking up, sweating, shaking, and with a shout dying in his throat, the name slipping from his memory as surely as the nightmare that had prompted it.

So he gave up on sleep, got up, dressed himself in a clean dougi and hakama, and went to stand by the outer screens, sliding them open just a few inches so that he could watch the world without fade from a solid, inky blackness to this eerie grey. He breathed in and out evenly, waiting patiently for the last vestiges of his dreaming horrors to slide from him, and thought back to the voices that had accompanied him to his short sleep.

* * * * *

Three voices leaking through the thin walls from the room next to his...one of them certainly Okita's. Aside from the fact that it was the room Okita had been given, he recognized his best friend's soft cadences, and even more telling was the occasional cough that disrupted the conversation. The voices spoke in low, urgent tones, but it wasn't the idea that some important conversation was going on less than five feet away that disturbed his attempts at slumber. It was the coughing.

Five months now...five months during which he'd noticed the young man's repeated assurances that he'd just breathed in some dust, or the laughing, light-hearted complaints about his cold that refused to be healed. The youngest Captain laughed when Takeda had made the old joke about only idiots catching summer colds, and continued to train and fight and travel as they all did, with only the occasional soft cough caught in his sleeve. But that cough had lingered in the back of Saitou's mind for a few months now, like a nicked blade caught on the fabric of his thoughts. Surely someone who kept himself so fit ought to have gotten over a simple cold by now.

And now...after five months, after an evening filled with hours of hard battle followed by more hours of standing in the bitter cold, hot and sweaty and slick with blood, the cough had changed. He had fought by Okita's side during most of the evening, their katana sending sprays of blood through the air and Ishin Shishi bodies thudding to the floor of the Ikeda-ya. But Saitou had lost sight of him sometime during the fight, and had not seen him at all during the walk back, in the bath house, or at dinner. It didn't mean anything, however, for no inn could house the entirety of their troops, and so they had scattered into various groups. Although all of the captains were at one inn, it didn't mean that Okita hadn't stopped by one of the other inns to check on his men.

But he sounded different now.

He listened intently to the voices for a moment, hearing only one word out of too many and not being able to piece anything together. Captain Kondou? And the other voice...Vice Captain Hijikata, perhaps. And Captain of the First Troop Okita Soushi, speaking in short phrases and coughing. It was a low, wet, harsh noise...menacing and dark compared to the light, dry bark that Saitou had gotten used to and even memorized. He quieted his breathing and strained his ears and fell asleep while listening to the voices and the coughing in the next room. And when he woke up an hour later, angry and hurt and so very, very afraid, the voices were gone.

* * * * *

He stared outside with unseeing eyes and attempted to recall his dream. However, instead of images, only the terror returned to him, blunted by awakening and time, but still disturbing in its remembered intensity. What had he dreamt of? He had been about to shout out a name when he'd sat up suddenly, one hand fisted so tightly around his blanket that his fingers had ached when he'd let go. Who had he wanted to...what...drive away, call back, warn?

Golden eyes refocused and flickered upwards as the quiet scrape of a screen being opened reached his ears. Several feet away, Okita stepped out onto the long porch that wound around the back of the inn, fully dressed, but normally, without the trademark hachimaki or haori that changed him from a pleasant-looking man to a dangerous killer. His treasured Kiku Ichimonji Norimune and wakizashi were at his left hip as always, just as much a part of the young man as were his slight build and ready smile. The smile was missing for the moment, however, as the youthful captain turned his head, sweeping the yard with his eyes.

Saitou remained unnoticed, as the other man seemed concerned only with the yard, and didn't include the row of papered doors that ranged along both sides of him. After his brief surveillance, a pair of zori were slipped on, and Okita stole quietly out of the inn and disappeared into the street through a small gate. As soon as the youthful form was out of sight, Saitou turned around, grabbed his swords from their stand, kicked his feet into his sandals, and strode out of his room.

Taking long strides in pursuit of his friend as he carefully tucked his swords into his belt, Saitou turned over a quick succession of questions in his mind. Where was Okita going at such an early hour? And why alone? And why wasn't he wearing his Shinsengumi uniform? Of course, Saitou himself had left the inn dressed much the same as his friend, in simple dark blue and grey, without any telltale signs of his occupation. But that was simply because he hadn't wanted to take the time to get fully dressed...and perhaps Okita was on his way to some secret assignation. In which case, he would be putting the man in danger by trailing along, wearing the conspicuous blue and white haori of the Shinsengumi. But if Okita was on a potentially dangerous mission, he shouldn't be going alone. A small voice added, especially if he's ill, but Saitou ignored it.

He caught up fairly close to Okita after a few turns, now only a short street's length away, his mind persistently questioning and coming up with no answers, with the most recurrent queries being about Okita's destination and intent. Was he going back to the Ikeda Inn? That would be foolish. Alone and out of uniform...it would be foolish to the point of insanity. What if he was going to try and hunt down the few Ishin Shishi who had escaped their trap of last night? But alone? What if...

...he was stopping to pet a dog.

Turning a corner, Saitou stopped as he found the object of his chase crouched in the middle of a small street, chuckling to himself and rolling a small white dog around with his hands, to the apparent delight of the ragged mutt. Saitou's lack of sleep, his haunting nightmare, and his nebulous worries over his friend had managed to cast an aura of danger and darkness around Okita in Saitou's mind, but the shadow seemed to disappear like mist under the sun as the present scene impressed itself on the older man.

Okita Soushi, Captain of the First Troop of the Shinsengumi, master kenjutsu instructor, and a man who had killed more men in the past month than he'd lived years...was squatting in the dirt and playing with a dog. The incongruous sight surprised all of the suppositions out of Saitou's mind, and was such a contrast to his worries that he felt an amused smile creep over his face despite himself.

The dingy white mass of fur suddenly gave a sharp bark and jumped out from under Okita's hands to stand on stiff, outraged legs and growl at the new intruder it spied on its territory. Okita started and immediately flew to his feet, his left hand at his hip as if to simply steady the swords hanging there, but Saitou knew from long experience that the young man could have the katana out and singing in less time than it took to blink. The sword remained in its saya, however, and the startled expression stayed on Okita's face for a while.

"Saitou-san," he finally said in a surprised voice. "I didn't recognize you at first."

Saitou frowned then, the fleeting smile vanishing. Given, the sun was still hours from rising, and he was standing a good distance away, but he'd have expected Okita to know him anywhere. Putting aside his questions for the moment, he replied in a brusque manner, "You've seen me out of uniform plenty of times."

"No," Okita laughed, "I meant that I didn't recognize you with that smile on your face."

Shaking his head, Saitou walked up to his friend, causing the miniscule mutt to scurry away. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. "I smile all the time."

After a quick, mournful look at the departure of his new friend, Okita turned to his old one with a grin and the contradiction, "No, you twist up your mouth into something that resembles a smile, but it usually only serves to make you even more menacing than usual. Just now, you were actually smiling like a human instead of a wolf."

Glancing at the simple, navy and grey outfit Saitou was wearing, Okita added in a facetiously thoughtful manner, "Perhaps it's the lack of your miburo uniform that made you seem normal. It was unusual, but it looked good on you. You should try smiling more often, Saitou-san."

"If you want me to have cause to smile, perhaps you would do me the favor of not disappearing from the inn in the middle of the night alone and out of uniform, Okita-kun," the once again grim-faced man responded. The rebuke continued silently in his head, phrases and intonations with a tone too personal and emotional to be voiced.

And thus putting yourself in danger...without telling anyone that could rush to your aid if need be...especially when you're sick...how sick, Okita?...keeping secrets from your best friend...

Upsets that would sound too weak coming from his mouth. Worries that would be insulting when directed at this young yet experienced captain. And yet, secrets there might be between them, but still they were best friends, and so Okita dropped the teasing smile and gave Saitou a long, serious look, listening to even the unsaid words.

They were of equal rank, and Saitou was the elder, but still...Okita was the First Captain, and had been with the Shinsengumi for longer. Okita Soushi was an adult, a man of rank and talent, and had every right to his own business. And the proposed "favor" that Saitou had testily asked for didn't require a reply from the younger man. But if their friendship had been such that Okita would ever use forms and formality to keep the other man at arm's length, then Saitou wouldn't have followed him out of the inn in the first place.

Okita took a deep breath to speak, but it seemed to catch in his throat, and he turned his head aside briefly to cough, covering his mouth with his right hand. His eyes, however, flickered upwards to catch his friend watching him intently. Those golden eyes were trained on him with the same absolute concentration as when the man was fighting...watching, searching...listening to the tearing sounds in Okita's lungs as if there were some hidden message within.

"Dust?" Saitou asked casually.

His brief battle with breathing over, Okita smiled in reply, glancing around them as if to point out the hard-packed dirt lying quietly about them, and the damp, misty morning air. Avoiding the question for the moment, and going back to Saitou's earlier words, he said, "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd walk down to the river." Noting that Saitou was also quite neatly dressed, without any sign of having simply thrown on clothes in order to follow him, he asked, "Were you having trouble sleeping as well?"

The older man simply shrugged. His companion accepted this uncommunicativeness with the ease of long familiarity, and then inquired, "Care to watch the sun rise? It's very peaceful." This time, Saitou didn't even shrug in response, but simply began walking, falling in by Okita's side as the young man resumed his walk.

They silently traversed several narrow side streets, crowded on both sides with homes and little shops, and then came out onto a wider road that sloped gently down to the river. The gloomy darkness had gradually given way to a washed out grey, through which colors slowly but surely bled through. Individual items that had all seemed dyed in the same iron hues now appeared in their various shades. The vivid crimson of a restaurant's banner...bright yellow flowers by the side of the road...the world seemed to be slowly coming awake as they walked.

The sun announced its impending arrival with beams of light setting the underbellies of the clouds afire just as the two Shinsengumi captains stopped in the middle of a bridge that spanned the Kamogawa. Saitou glanced over at his companion and, finding the young man apparently engrossed in watching the sun come up, studied him minutely. Okita was much shorter than he, and of slighter build, but there had never been the least shred of frailty about him. He lived a strict, upright life and trained both mind and body nearly every waking moment, and his natural talent with his chosen weapon made him the deadliest of all the Shinsengumi. They practiced together now and again, and sparred occasionally, but had never actually fought...but Saitou had long ago come to the conclusion that it was very possible he would not emerge the victor should they ever cross swords in earnest.

He wondered if that were still true.

Okita had never been the husky sort and his skin was naturally fair, but now, Saitou seemed to see new shadows and hollows in his friend's youthful face, and even with the rosy sunrise warming Okita's face, Saitou couldn't shake the impression that the man was slowly growing cold and bloodless. The strange unease that lingered after his nightmare had ended crept upon him again, and he seemed to hear again that heavy, retching cough.

He turned away suddenly, resisting the additional urge to shake his head to dispel this strangely persistent foreboding. It wasn't like him to brood over things, to let nightmares chase him from his room, to let morbid thoughts keep turning his mind this way and that. Saitou valued his self-control as being one of the most important - and telling - aspects of bushido. Without self-control, after all, how could one mete out appropriate justice, be courageous, have the patience for benevolence or politeness, stay truthful and honorable, and have unswerving loyalty? The inscrutable, smiling mask that he wore was one more manner in which he exercised this restraint. Okita's ready smiles were simply part of his sunny nature. Saitou's smiles were a mask.

Alone except for the company of his most trusted friend, Saitou was much more expressive. It was a sort of honesty that balanced the need to keep his emotions under control. To wear the same mask that he showed to the world around his best friend would have seemed an insult. Not that they shared every emotion and thought, however. There were myriad things he kept secret from Okita, and he knew that it was the same for the other man. But it was a strange combination of actively hiding nothing, while revealing little. He hid his specific worries about Okita and asked the man nothing...but wondered how much his presence this morning had revealed. He then wondered briefly if Okita, who knew him so uncannily well and was much more forthright about matters,

"So, what chased you out of sleep this morning?"

...would say anything.

Saitou replied quite simply and truthfully, "A dream. Nothing more."

"Nothing more than a dream," Okita repeated back to him, "and you decided to get up, get dressed, and wait several hours for the sun to rise?"

His companion gave no reply, nor did he even turn his head to look sharply at him, and so Okita went on, talking quietly and simply, as if merely speaking of the rising sun. "As I said before, I couldn't sleep. It was very quiet, and I hadn't quite realized how thin the walls are at that inn until I heard you wake." Saitou glanced over then, wondering if in his nightmares, he had said anything aloud prior to that choked down shout that had accompanied him out of the edges of the dream. But Okita asked him a question instead.

"Did I disturb your sleep last night?"

He heard the coughing again in his mind, but replied, "What do you mean?"

"Kondou-san and Hijikata-san were in my room rather late last night, talking," explained Okita.

Saitou remembered catching the words, "danger" and "your men" in the muffled words filtering through the walls. "About the Ikeda-ya?" he asked.

Next to him, Okita turned his face away, back into the sunlight now pouring over the horizon and spilling over everything in its path, and then closed his eyes as if the light stung them. With a faint smile still lingering around his lips, he said softly, "...and the repercussions. But if you didn't notice, then never mind."

An abrupt question welled up in Saitou's throat and died before it could reach his lips. Are you dying? Three words, suddenly there and then gone practically before he could hear the words spoken in his mind. If he asked, Okita would tell him. But if Okita wasn't going to tell him...he didn't want to ask. If he wanted Saitou to know, he'd let him know. Until then, he could lead the older man up to as many conversational openings as he wanted. Saitou would wait until there were no reservations whatsoever, and the answer could be given without being asked for first.

A man's secrets were his to keep...even if they weren't really secrets.

A soft sigh turned his attention back to the here and now, and Saitou glanced over to find Okita with his eyes opened once more, looking avidly at the dawn light glittering off of the water and casting delicate shadows through the trees along the bank. With his gaze fixed on the scenery, Okita mentioned in a vague manner, as if he were talking to himself, "I heard that in the winter, snow and frost cover the trees and banks, and thin sheets of ice constantly grow and break off along the edges of the river. It looks like glass and silk and rice paper so thin that you can see the veins in the pages."

Okita turned then and asked, "What do you think we'll be doing this winter?"

"Probably the same thing we're doing now," the older man replied, and then added honestly, "I haven't given any thought to it."

He received a mildly curious look and the additional query, "Don't you think of the future at all?"

"There's no need to think of anything past the work at hand, and the hour to come."

Strangely persistent, Okita asked, "So you never wonder...about the outcome of this fight to destroy the Ishin Shishi or how many of the Shinsengumi will die this coming year?"

Unable and unwilling to answer this question with a simple yes or no, Saitou answered rather abruptly, "There's no use in it. If I wait long enough, the future will happen, whether I guess at it or not."

Saitou stared out over the railing of the bridge, watching the sun finally begin to show itself over the horizon now that its rays had prepared the way, and felt unaccountably angry. If Okita were truly dying...that had been a cruel thing to say. But the problem was, he had no idea, only suspicions and fears. The conversation tempted him now and again to simply ask, and it made him wonder if his friend was trying to bait Saitou into asking what Okita was unwilling to say plainly. And the anger was actually frustration...constant wondering with no results, and the answer standing right next to him, but he wouldn't ask...he wanted to know, but then again, he didn't.

Okita fell silent, his seeking questions shelved for the moment by his companion's pointed reply. He didn't know. Saitou was direct and sometimes painfully honest, but he would never have said such a thing if he'd known that for Okita, there wasn't much future left to await. The thought was comforting, in a way. Despite the fact that he wasn't one of Okita's old schoolmates, Saitou was now his closest and most trusted friend...if he'd managed to hide his illness from him thus far, then he wanted to continue the deception. This most wolfish of all the Miburo would have been a comforting support and willing co-conspirator in keeping the tuberculosis a secret, but Okita found himself reluctant to burden him with the knowledge. Part of him wanted Saitou to know...the other part was thankful he didn't.

The fact that Saitou had felt the need to follow him this morning had stirred up an uneasy suspicion in Okita that his friend had found out about his condition, and now felt a need to watch over him. The coughs that he had been unable to suppress last night could have well traveled through the traitorously thin walls of the inn to betray him. And the forced casualness with which Saitou had repeated Okita's own contrived excuse of dust to explain away the short coughing fit he'd had this morning...

And so he'd attempted to draw his reticent friend out as best he could, clumsy and awkward in trying to manuever the conversation around someone he'd never lied to, never misled...except where his health was involved. But it was all right. Saitou didn't know. Saitou didn't need to know. Kondou-san had suggested, and Hijikata-san and he himself had immediately agreed, that the tuberculosis that had taken a dangerous turn for the worst after yesterday's battle and freezing night should be kept a close secret. The Captain of the First Troop was respected and admired by the entirety of the Shinsengumi. Word of his impending death would be dangerous to morale, and they could afford no weaknesses or distractions.

But there was something that he wanted to communicate, still, apart from the death and dying. Not anything that he could put into words, or even describe clearly to himself...but it was something he wanted to share. His Captain and Vice-Captain shared now in the knowledge of his death. He wanted someone to know of his dreams for life.

The idea of a future had for some time now been redefined for him. Before, it was a vague idea...now, it was an impossible vision. The physician he'd seen had predicted that Okita's remaining winters could be counted on one hand. And just like that, suddenly snow and ice had seemed achingly beautiful. He looked forward to watching the thick, feathery flakes come down, but also dreaded them in some secret part of his soul...because each new season was one less he had to look forward to.

Having fallen silent for some time now, Okita wondered how to begin the conversation anew. And what words could possibly serve him in trying to pass this nebulous idea on to his friend? There was a concept he wanted Saitou to understand, without understanding the facts that drove it. He knew that he was able to read the man far better than anyone else...better than Saitou sometimes knew. Okita turned his face back towards the other man and wondered wistfully if the reverse was the same.

Amber eyes glanced over at him while he was peering thoughtfully upwards, and then Saitou repeated his own question of a few minutes ago back at him. "So, what chased you out of sleep this morning?"

In any other instance, the appearance of mind-reading capabilities in his friend would have amused him, but memories of the conversation that had kept him from sleeping at all were still too fresh and forceful to leave room for lighthearted humor. However, the question did provide a nearly perfect opening.

"I was doing some useless thinking," he replied, making light mockery of Saitou's sensible, logical, and utterly unimaginative answer from before. Without waiting for any further prompting, which he wasn't sure would come, Okita explained, "I was imagining how I would order my life, if I had the ability to choose."

Gripping the railing of the wooden bridge, Okita said firmly, "I want to win this battle. Soon. Wipe out every single revolutionary and then put away my Shinsengumi haori forever."

Saitou raised an eyebrow at this last statement, and his companion replied to the dubious expression immediately.

"Do you really want to spend the rest of your life killing people?" Okita asked, his tone of voice protesting the very idea. "There are those who don't feel complete without their katana in their hand, but I am not one of them. I want a life beyond this one. I want to be able to walk down the street without having to wonder if every single person I pass is on our side or not. I want to go back to my room one night and not need to clean blood off of my katana."

As if to push the bloody visions away, Okita turned to painting a picture of the life he dreamt of instead, his voice softening as he spoke. "I want to go back to the Shieikan and resume my duties as a shihandai...to teach all those young boys the ways of Tennen Rishin Ryu, so that they can defend themselves and fight for the life they want to live. I want to find a wife...the mother of my children..." Okita's lips curved in a tender smile, as if he saw before him not a river turned bright gold with the rising sun, but a cluster of small children tumbling over each other in play. "Beautiful little girls to raise into charming young women...sturdy little boys that I can pass on my skills to and hope that they won't need to use them."

He paused for a moment, and then looked down into the water that flowed lazily below them. "I want to come back to this bridge in the winter and watch the ice form and break and form again. And in the spring I want to stand in a grove of cherry trees and let the wind create a snowstorm around me. I'll build a small pond for koi and let the sight cool the heat of summer...and have maple trees around my house that will turn the place into a bonfire every autumn." Suddenly, his face took on a darker determination, as if the pleasant visions he were weaving had suddenly taken on the weight of a burden or solemn duty. "I'll tell my wife she's beautiful and spoil my daughters shamelessly. And I'll visit the graves of my friends...bring my sons with me and have them help me arrange the chrysanthemums and ivy...and tell them what truth and loyalty really mean."

One hand slipped from the railing and Okita turned to face his friend. "That's a life, Hajime." He saw a flicker of surprise in Saitou's eyes at the use of his first name. Best friends they might be, but they hardly ever fell into such casualness, since formality and politeness were part and particle of them both. But Okita wanted to make certain that he had the man's attention, and that he drove his point home as well as he could.

He spoke no further and looked at the other man expectantly. After a long moment of simply watching each other, Saitou let out a brief breath that was almost a sigh and said, "That's the life you wish for yourself. Why tell me all of that?"

Okita pressed his lips together for a moment and then said, "Because I want you to understand it. 'Aku, soku, zan' will guide you for the rest of your days, and defines who you are more than anything, but it's not what makes a life. I want you to know that...to see all those things that don't exist, but are real and true and good all the same. Look forward to spring. Get married. Have a son to train in your ways. Visit a grave...and think back, and look forward. Live."

Okita stressed that last word and made it a demand...insistent and commanding. Live. Live your life. Enjoy the seasons that I'll never see. Have the sons that I'll never raise. Visit my grave. Remember me. He practically glared at his friend, searching those golden eyes intently for a reaction.

Saitou stared back, trying to keep his unsettling thoughts from reflecting in his expression. There was a part of him that knew now, with a cold, sinking feeling, that his best friend was dying. Why else would he be pressing his dreams upon his friend, unless as a legacy? The only will that he would ever write, passed on so that he could face his death with serenity, knowing that the future that had been taken from him would not die along with him.

But he looked upon that sickening knowing with the same angry disdain as he'd felt for his morbid fancies and the persistent unease that clung to him hours after his nightmare had ended. He shook away the haunting memories of that late night coughing and the visions of bright blood falling from his friend's mouth and filled his eyes instead with the reality that stood in front of him. The reality of Okita standing up straight and strong and absolutely vibrant with this strange intensity in his eyes as he searched Saitou's expression.

Refusing to support his pessimistic suspicions by taking Okita's rather sentimental speeches too seriously, Saitou snorted lightly and replied, "You think too much, Soushi." His use of his friend's given name was not of the same tone as Okita had used, one claiming the intimacy of a tried and true friendship. Instead, he used it as an additional means to dismiss the persistent foreboding that refused to quiet down within himself.

He watched Okita's eyes widen, and he wondered briefly whether his friend was shocked at Saitou's flippant reply, or at being called Soushi instead of Okita-kun, as usual. But then Okita suddenly shook his head, laughing in a slightly pained, very resigned manner, as a parent does at an impossible yet adorable child. The laughter died down after a minute or two, and after a few calming breaths, Okita said in an almost fatherly manner, "Hajime."

"What?" the older man asked rather flatly, wondering what odd thing his friend would say next.

A smile marring the serious, grave look on his face, Okita said, "Just...nod, all right? And tell me that you understand, and that you'll remember what I said."

With a short sigh, Saitou complied. He nodded once, very deliberately, and then promised, "I understand, and I'll remember what you said." And he would...the upset, fearful part of him that wondered what the Shinsengumi would be like without his best friend would never let him forget.

Satisfied, Okita gave him a much brighter, more familiar smile and said simply, "Thank you." Then, with a quick glance at the fully risen sun, he added, "We'd best head back to the inn. Another day has started."