Honestly, if you asked who would most likely visit my home between Kyo and the Tooth Fairy, I'd choose the latter. So when I felt his presence coming my way one day around midwinter, I was ecstatic. I ran around the house stocking up the fires and readying a place for him to rest. By the time his tall figure loomed in my doorway, I was already there, gesturing to his coat. "Care for a cup of tea, Kyo?"
My pseudo-son definitely didn't get his manners from me. He grunted something incomprehensible and slipped a familiar pair of boots off before tossing his coat (which was also rather familiar) towards me. If I had been anyone else, I might be angry for his rude behavior. But I heard his thoughts roaring in my ears, "I'm so fucking tired, I just want to get warm and get sleep…Damn it, he's already in my head. No, you're in my head."
I shrugged as if his comment had been voiced aloud. With people like Kyo, my Satori was quite useful. He could never hide anything from me. Or could he? As he sat down, he hissed, "Stop poking around my head, old man. I'll tell you when I feel like it." Then the crimson eyed demon guzzled the tea I had put in front of him.
Of course, I attempted what he requested but it didn't help much. Even without conscious effort, Kyo's thoughts were a constant whisper in my mind. I wonder if he really had heard…Fuck, I wonder if I should even tell him. What if that crispy old hag doesn't make it?
"Kyo, calling people by such names really isn't very nice," I said nonchalantly in between a modest sip of tea.
The samurai growled, and then leaned his solid frame onto the back wall. I had long since replaced the rice paper walls in the dining area with solid ones because of that particular habit. "Your little pros—friend with the Satori is actually alive," he said without even a hint of tact.
My mind went into turmoil. Is Rengoku really alive? The Mibu messengers said… And it dawned on me that I had been deceived. "So that's how it is. How did you learn of this?" Despite my calm voice, my hands still shook in something like a mixture of anger and relief.
Instead of waiting for him to grind out an answer, I searched for it in Kyo's mind. The images he sent towards me were horrifying. My pretty little Rengoku burned almost beyond recognition, her once flawless face marred by the fire. The memory was so vivid, I could smell the scent of cooking flesh and sickly sweetness of infection. It almost made me retch. Kyo noticed my distraught. "She's as fine as expected."
That would be the most words of comfort I'd ever receive from the man. I forced my heart rate back to normal and gripped my teacup to stop the shaking. "Should I prepare to leave?" I asked, already checking off a list of supplies for the journey west in my head.
"No," he said in that gruff voice of his, "It'll be a waste of time. The passes closed up right after I left and she plans on getting here at the beginning of spring anyway."
Based on the images that I had read in Kyo's mind, that seemed like a very unlikely outcome. I believed that Rengoku was strong, but even the most hardy of the Mibu would have a difficult time getting over such traumatic injuries. There would be a lot of problems for her in the future. Her immune system would forever be compromised and a significant amount of muscle loss would occur because her range of motion would be seriously impacted. Skin is meant to stretch and those burns would prevent that from happening to a large degree.
If she was able to travel despite all that, the possibility of her being attacked and killed would be increased. Japan is a lawless land and bandits pick off weak or wounded prey like hyenas. There would be no way for Rengoku to protect herself.
I had no other option. My instincts told me that I had to go to her no matter what the cost. I'd need to dig up my traveling garb, rations that would survive the road and probably start collecting herbs along the way. Healing and medicine was never her-
"Old man! Snap out of it!" Kyo shouted angrily. I snapped out of my thoughts and back into reality. Red eyes were glaring at me intensely.
I cleared my throat before speaking: "I'm sorry, Kyo, what were you saying?"
He grunted before settling back down more comfortably. "Stop making plans for heading over there right now. She doesn't want you bugging her and getting all over-protective." I could feel that my sweet little Rengoku hadn't actually said that, but I could see where this was coming from. No one really wanted to have someone hovering over them while they were sick. I knew that feeling. There was a reason why I hadn't told Kyo or Rengoku about my… condition.
I didn't have to be happy about the situation though.
I took the last sip from my cup of herbal tea and sighed shakily. Just as I was about to grab the kettle and pour some more, a hand pushed my own out of the way and walked away with it. The news had finally really sunk in. She might not even survive the winter…
A cup was put into my hand and I automatically took a half-hearted swig. I almost spewed out the sake that been switch for my tea before I realized that Kyo was trying to comfort me.
Kyo. Comforting me… What an unsettling thought.
Instead of refusing the sake, I gulped the rest down and stuck the cup out for more.