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Kigaku was sure that Toramaru would be outside. She liked the cool, nighttime air as he did, so he went around the temple grounds to go see her. Sure enough, the man found Toramaru near the temple’s paved road. She was humming an empty tune, taking languid steps through the faint light of the lanterns.
The priest noticed the man walking, however quiet he might have been, and put up a hand in acknowledgment. “Kigaku,” she said. “How goes it?”
“It goes well. I have just finished speaking with Hijiri.”
“We talked about the past, Kyouko, and my current affiliation with the temple. She told me something most unsettling about the last matter.”
“Do tell,” Toramaru said, her interest piqued.
“Hijiri told me that I do not have to perform my duties anymore. So I’d like to garner your advice.” Kigaku looked to the woman with helpless gray eyes. “If not my duties, then what do I do?”
“What do you do?” she asked incredulously. Then, with a restrained nighttime laugh, she said, “You do whatever you wish. No longer are you shackled to the ties that bind. I fear that it’s been over a thousand years since you have enjoyed yourself. Why not go and see what has changed since you’ve tread on ground?”
“I am rather reluctant. After all, the last time I decided to venture out, I was stripped of my voice,” Kigaku signed. When Toramaru threw him a sympathetic look, he clarified. “It was a joke.”
“Oh, Kigaku.” The sympathy in her golden eyes remained. “You’ve had a thousand years to practice your humor, and still it’s drier than salted jerky. You and Nazrin should take classes.”
“My humor is fine.”
“I’ve eaten meals funnier than your jokes.” Toramaru laughed to herself. “See, because they tasted funny. Ha!”
It was then that Kigaku wished that he had a voice to cut her off with.
“But back to the subject of the matter. You have no obligation to return as the Prophet, so why worry about the details? And I say this because, above all titles, you are my friend, Kigaku. Take this as a vacation where all you need to worry about is what you’ll be doing the next day. Now come here, you humorless scamp. Again, all you do is worry, worry, worry. Have some fun!” She quickly closed the distance between Kigaku and herself, putting an arm around his shoulder. Toramaru swung him around easily as she tunelessly sang, “Now, O~ Lo~ord, are we disciples. Now have we become Arhats, O~ Lo~ord! Sing it with me, Kigaku! But not too loud. We all know you have no indoor voice, but it’s nighttime, so do try and be respectful.”
He humored her with silent words. “One may charitably give food, soft and solid, clothing, drink, a place for sleeping and sitting, with clean coverlets; one may build monasteries of sandal-wood, and after furnishing them with double pieces of fine white muslin, present them.”
“Beautiful! Perfect! Have you gotten better at singing?” Toramaru said merrily. “The whole province must be clapping because I can’t hear you anymore over the sound of the applause! And, forgive the pun, but that was divine! Bravo!”
“I’ve had a thousand years to practice, after all,” signed Kigaku in good humor.