Higashi no Wadatsumi, Nishi no Soukai
<The Sea God in the East, the Vast Sea in the West>

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 1994


~ Chapter Three~


As usual, Kouya rode on the youmafs back to the continent, and hunted animals by throwing stones. The youmafs hunger could not be satiated by just one or two rabbits, so Kouya left the eating youmafs side, and continued his search for the next prey. His wrist was wounded by a stray arrow some time ago. It hurt so much even when Kouya was asleep, but Kouya could not fail to deliver to the youma its food. Suddenly arrows came raining on him.

Kouya yelled and escaped into the woods. Though Kouya had been struck by arrows or wounded by spearheads countless number of times, it was impossible for him to say he had grown used to the wound that now screamed pain in his brain.

He crashed into the woods, and hid himself in the bushes. The rain of arrows stopped dead.

g--Come out, boy!h
A sonorous voice shouted, talking to Kouya who was holding his breath.
gYou were riding on a youmafs back, and flying in the sky a while ago, werenft you?h

Kouya didnft understand human conversations at all, but he mysteriously understood what that man was saying. Feeling that the voice was not threatening or desperate, Kouya poked his head slightly out of the bushes.
At the top of the slope that extended up from the woods, a few men were standing. Everyone was kneeling and positioned with their bows ready, except one man who stood in front of everyone else while folding his arms.

gWhatfs wrong? You donft want to come out?h
The man looked around himself.
gDonft be scared. --Stop it!h
But, his subordinates started, but the man waved them off. The subordinates then all lowered their bows.

Kouya, upon seeing that they put away their weapons, poked his head out a little more, and met glances with the man. The man with a big smile had red hair just like the youmafs, except the lock of white hair at his right temple. Kouya somehow put his guards down and stood up upon seeing the man.

gCome out! We wonft do a thing.h
It was a kind voice, upon which Kouya slowly walked out of the bushes. He would like to stand beside people if they were not pursuers. This was how longing Kouya was to meet other people.
The man kneeled down and held out his hand.
g--Come. We wonft shoot you.h

Then, a voice stopped Kouya from being lured out of the bushes. Come on! The cry seemed more like a roar. After loud flaps of wings as though rocks went tumbling in, the youma landed right in front, and threatened the men with a loud roar. Then the youma extended its hind legs and lowered its back, urging Kouya to climb on its back.

The men who had lowered their bows once again got in position with their bows up, but the man who had kneeled down stopped them.
g--Stop! Donft shoot!h
The man ordered, and looked at Kouya and the youma back and forth without a trace of fear. He showed an expression of great interest.
gHow interesting. This youma is protecting you, isnft it?h
He stepped forth while holding out his hand once more.
gCome. We will do nothing to you or the youma. --Oh yes.h

The man turned back to the subordinates who were bewildered whether to lower their bows. Give me the deer, he ordered.
gHere you go. You are hunting, I bet. You canft hunt a deer with stones.h
Kouya stared blankly at the man and the deer. The man gave this to me, Kouya could only think, but he didnft understand what for. Receiving Kouyafs glare, the man smiled.


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