I want to skip over this next part and just pretend that Shojin was fine and we went about our business in this little town got what we needed and went on our way. I want to do that but I can’t. It would be a lie. Shojin was not ok. He was softly crying while Gnoman has his hand on his shoulder in a way that was intended to be comforting but just looked awkward. Gnoman wasn’t made for emotional comforts. Or was he? Questions for another day.
I sat the wine and the glasses down on the table and called Shojin’s name. No response. I tried to be funny and was gonna peck at his head through one of my birds but as soon as I tried to look through their eyes I was hit with a blinding pain behind my eyes that nearly brought me to my knees. Ok so not doing that again here.
Head down and hands palm up on the table Shojin softly wept. I called his name again. Still no response. I grabbed one of his hands and gave it a squeeze. He finally looked up at me. I smiled at him and he weakly returned the smile. I took the opportunity to punch him in the shoulder the way one does a sibling.
And the next thing I knew I was on the floor looking up at the ceiling as the world slowly came back into focus. I guess this was what Jerry meant by sanctuary. I should have asked more questions. But, the lesson was learned.
Gnoman helped me up to the table while Shojin had gone back to being nearly catatonic. Jerry was softly chuckling from the bar. Dick. Though it was my own damn fault. Gnoman poured us each a healthy pull from the bottle of wine. It smelled like summer. As I slowly took sips from the glass I began to explain what Jerry had told me minutes before. Shojin took it all in and looked at me. Really looked at me.
“I can’t feel it Payday. It was there and now it’s not and I don’t know what to do.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant but I had a suspicion. We had both died or been so close as to not have mattered and we had both come back. I knew what that felt like. It changed you. And I think his thing was kinda like my thing. We had a calling of sorts. Mine to the lady and his to some weird bearded dude he met in prison. I know that being in prison can change a person so I have never really pushed him about what his relationship with that guy was like. I don’t know what he had to do to survive and I don’t know what he means to Shojin. I figured that now was the time I was going to have to cross that bridge and find out more.
So I just asked point blank if he and the old man had been lovers. I wasn’t judging and it didn’t bother me if they were. I was just trying to understand what he was going through. He just started laughing at that and said simply no.
“It isn’t like that. He is just a friend. A friend who saved me when I needed saving.”
That stung a little and I don’t think he meant it to. I’d been trying to save him in that camp. Well, everyone was helping. But we’d tried. We almost had him before those bastards struck him down. And yeah, this guy saved him I guess. But it didn’t make my failure there hurt any less. He shouldn’t have even needed saving and I blamed myself for that. I blamed myself for a lot when it came to where we were.
And now I was crying.
“I tried, Shojin. I hope you know that. You are my best friend and all I wanted was for you to be safe.”
He took my hand and gave it a squeeze. I smiled and thought about how it must look that his tiny crazy friend was crying.
And we both cried and Gnoman just sat in silence taking it all in. No snarky comments or words of judgment. Just quiet acceptance. This has to be my favorite Gnoman. I wish I knew what his story was. I wish he knew what his story was.
But fair enough. We all need people sometimes and that one time when Shojin needed us, needed me, I wasn’t there. And I get that. I don’t like it but I get it. After we’d both been sitting there for what felt like hours, I filled him in on what Jerry told me about this place. I gave him my currently untested theory that even though our connections, whether to the lady or the manor whatever the hell was tied to him were still there, just waiting for us to leave this place. He took it all in and while not pleased it looked like it at least made sense, which was a start I suppose.
I still think the lady set this place in my path with a purpose. I just need to find out what it is. Maybe it was time to talk to the merchant and see what we could learn. Moreover we could see about getting the gear we would need to complete this journey. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long.