It was a bright morning when Nishi left his friends' home. He took a last glance back over his shoulder and waved for the third time before striding off along the snow covered road with Miri at his heels. He had liked Hanwei and Ailin, he would miss them, but they had invited him to come and visit whenever he was in the neighborhood. Nishi was sure Hanwei would love to meet other Genbu Seishi if they were with him the next time he passed through Otogeimachi. The warm sun bounced blindingly off the cold white snow. It would make a beautiful painting he thought. Nishi plodded along, holding his hat in his hands and thumbing the edge thoughtfully, until he had met Hanwei he had never thought that other Seishi could have existed before his time. It made him wonder if they had succeeded. It also made him wonder if his Miko would succeed in summoning Genbu. Miri meowed a few times before Nishi awoke from his distant thoughts. Placing his indigo hat on his head Nishi scooped up Miri and squinted, hoping to see some sign of Tolan. "Hey! I think I see something!" he blurted out in his excitement. Miri's claws dug into his arm all the way through his thick sleeve as he ran towards the city steadily appearing over the horizon. He stopped out of breath only 4 yards from the first buildings. It was a miracle, he had reached Tolan. Nishi wandered slowly up and down streets, alleys, and open plazas taking in Tolan. It was the largest place he had ever been and it seemed unbelivable. There was so much to look at, all the buildings, vendors' carts, and people. Nishi felt especially clumsy having to step around and try not to trip into other people. Miri was frightened and took refuge in Nishi's jacket. Nishi felt overwhelmed, he needed somewhere quiet to sit down and think, but where? He glanced around at colorful signs hanging outside nearby buildings. No, he thought. Then a banner he had overlooked caught his eye, 'Master Ling's New and Used Books.' Stepping around a dark-haired man who appeared to be selling silk scarves Nishi slipped into the bookstore. A bell tied to the doorknob jingled to Nishi's suprise as the door closed behind him making him nearly jump. "Good Day Sir, how can I help you?" Nishi was suprised at being called sir, this term had never been directed to him before. Feeling nervous he said, "I just wanted to look around." "Fine then, go right ahead." responded the young man sitting at the counter. Nishi stepped around and behind the first shelf of books and leaning against it slumped down to the floor. He took a deep breath and looked at the dusty volumes he was facing. Many of the titles were beyond his comprehension, the kanji seemed blurred. Nishi felt rather faint and trying to pull himself together stretched and rubbed his eyes. Pulling himself to his feet he prepared himself to go back out into the city. He felt dizzy and put his hand against a bookshelf. Shaking off the dizziness he took a few steps towards the door and collapsed. Nishi slowly opened his eyes. He painfully turned his head slowly to the side and was suprised to find himself looking up into the thin, pale face of the young man from the bookstore. The young man smiled and stopped Nishi before he could speak, "Shh. You're pretty sick, take it easy. I'm Toren Ling." Nishi blinked, trying to sort out his thoughts. "But I was in the bookstore," he mumbled. Ling shook his head, "And you collapsed. What were you doing out with this temperature? Don't you live around here?" Nishi glanced at Miri who was sitting on his chest, "I'm Toko Nishi. I'm from Yuki Hana Manor. I didn't know I was sick." Ling's face brightened, "Well, you're from the country? I thought so." Here he stopped and carefully looked Nishi up and down. Nishi took the silence as an opportunity to get a better look at Ling. His pale and thin face held round chestnut eyes framed with large spectacles. His ebony hair was pulled back and hung slightly past his shoulders. Ling seemed small and underfed, maybe his business was not doing so well Nishi thought. "How long have I been here?" Nishi suddenly asked. Startled out of his revery it took Ling a minute to find an answer, "About 2 hours." Nishi realized he had been moved onto someone's bed, probably Ling's. He sat up and and started to stand up, but felt too weak and sat down. Miri glared up him for having been moved so unexpectedly. Nishi moved his hand and felt something damp, it was a wet cloth, he had knocked it off his forehead when he got up. "Here's your hat," said Ling nonchalantly. "You're exhausted aren't you? How many days did it take you to get here?" Nishi noted the concern in Ling's voice. "No, not really, I'm just fine. Thank you for your concern. I really do have to go now." Nishi wanted to leave, he felt awkward around Ling, although he was obviously only trying to help. "Nishi? Calm down. Why are you so nervous? Are you trying to hide something from me?" Now as much as he wanted to go quickly, Nishi felt he could neither bring himself to lie to Ling or to avoid his questions. He breathed in slowly, collecting his thoughts, "I'm sorry I'm so nervous. ...no, I'm not trying to hide anything. I'm not sure how long it took me to get to Tolan though, I didn't really have any reason to watch the date or time." Ling smiled again, he looked somewhat relieved, "Oh, that's alright, Hatsui." Nishi stopped for a moment,caught in a thought, then felt his symbol glow eerily. He cringed. Ling's eyes widened in suprise. Nishi put his hand over his arm where his symbol was, it shimmered a bright emerald green that shone almost through his sleeve. What had made him react like that? Was it Ling? A tremor of supressed power emanated from Nishi. The lenses in Ling's glasses cracked. "Wh-who are you really?" Nishi could not reply, his mouth hung open dumbly. He let his hand fall from his arm. Ling slipped quietly out the door, "I'll be back later," he mumbled in explaination. Nishi felt a chill run down his spine as he met Ling's gaze. "Explain to me what sort of devilish sorcery you have up your sleeves Toko Nishi." "We-well, it's not 'devilish sorcery'," replied Nishi, gaining some confidence, "It's my power, the power of Genbu!" Ling shuddered, "I don't believe you." "Just a moment," Nishi said with a grin, "Then you will." He rolled up his sleeves past his elbows and concentrated hard. Ling swallowed anxiously as he saw Nishi's symbol, ki, shine. The temperature in the room was dropping rapidly and Ling started to shiver. Icicles began to form on the ceiling and a thin sheet of ice was hardening on the floor. Ling took a step away from Nishi, slipped, and fell. Nishi pulled a long icicle off the ceiling and twirled it around in his hand. Sticking it through his sash he grabbed Ling's hand and pulled the smaller man to his feet. Nishi was curious, "Master Ling, why would a citizen of Hokkan doubt the power of his country's guardian deity?" Ling sneezed and then quietly answered, "There is only one true god, and it is not Genbu." Nishi looked even more puzzled. "Until I saw what you just did, and yet how kind you could be that is what I thought. Thank you Nishi, for opening my eyes. I now see how false the one true god is." Ling smiled gently. Miri came out from under the bed where she had taken refuge from Nishi's ice. Miri slid into Ling's leg and Ling picked the cat up. Nishi looked at Ling rather stupidly, "Unfortunately I don't know how to thaw ice yet." Nishi sat slumped over with his head on the table, "Nishi, are you alright? You look tired," asked Ling. Ling got up, "I have some inventory to do- remember I have a bookstore to run." Shaking off his drowsiness Nishi followed Ling into a small, dusty backroom. "Do you need any help?" Ling smiled, "I'd appreciate it. Do you think you could shelve that stack of books. They all go in the section labeled history." "Um, okay." Nishi picked up three books and went to find the history section. When he finally found it he had to pause for a moment, remembering how to alphabetize things. Nishi put the books in their places and went back for more. After about half an hour of this Nishi felt bored and stopped to watch Ling counting and taking notes. Nishi marveled at Ling's small, neat handwriting. Nishi knew his own writing was little more than legible and was not proud of it. Ling, realizing he was being watched, turned and looked at Nishi, "Did you finish already?" "Well, no," Nishi said, "I was just thinking." Ling understood, "You can stop, there's nothing wrong with admitting you're tired." Nishi hopped onto a crate and Ling haphazardly scrambled up beside him. Ling adjusted his spectacles, "Are you just going to wait around here until Genbu no Miko comes looking for you?" "I suppose so," answered Nishi, a bit suprised by the question, "I never actually had much of a plan to begin with." "You can stay here as long was you want Nishi, you know I don't mind." The two sat side by side in silence for a few minutes before Ling began to speak again, "What do you think Genbu no Miko will be like?" Nishi once again felt slightly puzzled, Ling seemed to think of all sorts of things that never even occured to him. "... I never really thought about it I guess." "Well then let's discuss it." Nishi sat and imagined what Genbu no Miko would be like. Nishi suddenly broke the silence, "I think she must be kind and smart." "She's got to be quite a special person to have been singled out by destiny in such a way." "Do you think she'll be pretty?" Ling considered this for a moment, "I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see." Nishi grinned, "Now you've made me curious, I hope I don't have to wait long!" Nishi spent the night sleeping on the floor of Ling's home and the morning of the following day Ling announced that Nishi would come with him to run some errands and drop in on some friends. With Ling's persuasive manner Nishi could do nothing but obey. In his excitement Ling practically tossed the dirty breakfast dishes aside, shoved some money into his pockets, and grabbed a list off the table. Nishi followed Ling out into the snow covered streets. A few lone snowflakes drifted through the sky, "Winter is hitting us early, isn't it?" Ling asked Nishi's opinion. Nishi smiled in such a way that it was obvious he was up to something, "Oh you! Make it stop!" moaned Ling, "I'm catching a cold already! A native of Sailou can't take this weather! -Especially when he knows his friend is contributing to it!" He smiled and they both ran down the alleyway laughing. Rather out of breath, they slowed down as they reached a large open square where merchants were beginning to lay out their wares. Miri scurried up after them and swiped angrily at Nishi's leg, "Miri, I'm sorry we left you behind. Come on, you can ride on my shoulder." He scooped up the small cat and went off to catch up with Ling who was busy examining some laquered dishes. Nishi followed along quietly as Ling examined more pottery which he claimed was, "of the poorest quality," despite its maker's word otherwise. As more people filled the square Nishi had a harder time staying near Ling, who was trying to get a more reasonable price for a 2 pounds of oranges. "Crowds again," he rubbed Miri's head and tried to concentrate on relocating Ling, who had momentarily disappeared. Suddenly Ling popped up beside him with a huge grin plastered across his thin face. Nishi stepped back in suprise, "There you are!" "Of course," replied Ling, shoving some of his awkward-shaped parcels into Nishi's arms, "Where did you think I was?" "Well...I couldn't...I didn't...oh, nevermind." Ling's eyes glittered with laughter at Nishi's innocent confusion. "I'd like to drop in on Fuujin and her brother next if you don't mind." Nishi shrugged, "Whatever you want to do." Miri meowed her approval and batted at some strands of Nishi's hair. Ling and Nishi strolled casually alomg the street, Nishi still couldn't understand why Ling felt at home here, he felt like he was trapped in a maze. Tolan was too big and there were too many people. Nishi dragged his boots through the thin covering of half-melted early snow. Ling pointed at a small dilapidated house, "That's where my friends live." "It reminds me of my house in Sariff." "Sariff? You live there? Isn't that a tiny city known for their pottery?" "Yes, it is. I moved there when I was 13, before that I lived in Yuki Hana Manor. Ther're not that far apart you know." Their conversation ended rather abruptly as they grew closer to the house. A tall, brown-eyed man was sweeping dirt off the porch. He stared quietly off into the distance, but still seemed to be listening to them. "Hey Han-Yang!" Ling called cheerfully. Hany-Yang brushed some strands of hair out of his face and then realized Ling was adressing him. A hint of a smile flickered across his countenance, "Hello Ling. Shouldn't you be working today?" Ling shrugged, "I don't get much business in the morning. Besides, if it's that important they can wait or come back later." Han-Yang grinned and made a strange gesture with the broom, "Whatever pleases you, Master." Nishi watched the exchange with curiosity. Han-Yang had a strange voice, it was low, but he spole with an unexpected softness. He was a tall powerful-looking man with dark brown eyes. Han-Yang's hands were huge with long, delicate fingers. As Nishi watched him he decided the strangest thing about the outlandish figure was his hair, Han-Yang's hair was dark brown with stripes of black running through it. Although it stuck up in spikes on some parts of his head the majority of it hung in odd strands down to his shoulders and over his eyes. "I'm here to see Fuujin." Ling explained. "Whom? You mean Chire-Asa?" Han-Yang blinked questioningly. "Yes, your sister." "Oh," he responded, "Fine." Han-Yang opened the door and motioned them in. Nishi allowed his eyes to ajust to the dimness before glancing across the room to the small woman sitting in a large carved chair. Her blue eyes were open wide and she stared straight at him. "Good morning Fuujin," Ling bowed gracefully. The woman, apparently Fuujin, blinked nervously. "Who is that?" she murmured and pointed a trembling hand at Nishi. "This is my friend, Toko Nishi, why does he bother you so much?" "He doesn't bother me," she replied, slipping behind the chair and peeking around the edge. Han-Yang laughed, "Then come over here and shake his hand!" Fuujin glared at her brother who smiled defiantly back at her. "It's alright," Nishi told them, "you don't have to come near me." Fuujin slunk out from behind the chair and stood on a stool to bring herself up to the same height as Ling. Han-Yang laughed and Fuujin gave him a reprimanding look. "Alright Ling. Why are you here? What do you want?" Nishi had a hard time not laughing at the serious little woman. She could command like a general, but her looks spoiled the whole effect. Amazingly unlike her brother, Fuujin had pale eyes, a small build and thin, silky-looking hair. They were like day and night, except for their voices, both soft and smooth, they seemed very eloquent people. "Just a visit." Ling said. "You always think he wants something Morning Glory." Han-Yang spoke with a hint of humor in his voice. "Don't call me that-and he always does! He wants to borrow my measuring cup or to have you fix his broom or he needs us to help him at his shop. Speaking of his shop, shouldn't you be working?" Ling blushed, "You treat me like I'm a child, I can take care of the bookshop on my own." "You are like a child." Fuujin answered sharply, "And I want you to go home now and mind your shop Ling. I can tell you aren't eating enough just from looking at you." "Alright, alright, you aren't my mother you know." Ling stepped towards the door, "Come on Nishi, let's go." Nishi started to follow Ling, but was stopped as Han-Yang stepped in front of him. "I have a feeling that someday you will be able to make better use of this then I ever will. Keep it and keep safe." Nishi took the rolled up piece of paper from Han-Yang. "You sentimental fool!" sqwaked Fuujin, "Why on earth did you keep that?!" "I hand copied the ShiJInTenChiSho word for word. I think this young man can make good use of it. Make the winds of good fortune blow alongside you." "I'm the one who knows the wind brother!" "Enough, both of you!" Ling yelled. "Thank you," whispered Nishi. And on his way out the door he reached out toward Fuujin's hand, meaning to shake it. -Their hands never touched-Nishi's went straight through Fuujin's. "Na-nani?!" "Oh, too bad, now that you've figured us out we have to go, right Hats-I mean Han-Yang." "Hai, we did what we were sent to do. Keep watch over the capital until we saw someone for Genbu, someone to stand against the followers of the True God." "Oh really..." muttered Ling. "So now we depart: Inami and Hatsui of the Genbu ShichiSeishi. Give the other Seishi our best wishes Nishi." Han-Yang (Hatsui) and Fuujin (Inami) smiled, waved one last time and flickered out of sight. Nishi and Ling stared dumbfounded at where they had stood seconds before.