“That’s sorta right. Try doing it more like this,” AsaHi leaned down into the stream’s current, allowing her hair to flow with the water’s silver tide.
She carefully demonstrated a thorough hair-washing using the fingers of both hands. It was a great relief as the water rushed over her face, taking away the last grime from the night before. It was even more cheering to think that there was a fresh change of clothes and something for lunch in her reacquired pack.
The girl looked over at Kaze. He was obviously trying very hard, but not doing a good job of imitating her. He ended up falling head-first into the stream more times than she could count.
If this is how guys bathe, no wonder they always look like a mess.
She reached over and helped him up, washing his face off with her hands. Fingers winding through his long white hair, she began to scrub it. Then she lifted his hand to imitate her motion.
“That’s better. Just keep doing that.”
He turned to give her a thankful smile. The motion caused him to end up face down in the river again.
For someone who moves as fast as he does, he’s awful clumsy about the little things.
This time he pulled himself out with a sheepish look. Together they resumed washing the rest of his hair.
Kaze was strange. He was head and shoulders taller than any man in Nefol, but he acted as if he was experiencing the whole world for the very first time. Everything from bathing to walking to talking… she felt like she was giving him a crash course in life.
I wonder where he came from and how he ended up like this. Maybe he got lost in the wild from the Gatherings at a young age.
He was obviously very intelligent. Because he seemed to understand what she was saying to him — though he sometimes required a bit of explanation — led her to believe that somewhere in his life he had been exposed to the ways of people.
Something about the way he acted seemed like he wanted to help her. AsaHi just wondered — not only was she curious about who he was, but also about why he would choose to guard her, even though they had never met before.
It might be good to have company on this trip, even if he is a little unusual. I don’t think the Apprentices will be able to fight him if they come after me again. Besides, who knows what else is out there in the forest.
So AsaHi decided that she’d clean Kaze up, try to find something fitting for him to wear, feed him, and ask if he didn’t mind coming along with her.
It’s a fair enough trade, I think.
She tromped quickly over to her pack and began to sift through it. There was certainly not much that she wore that would fit someone like him. Sorting through the bottom of the pack, AsaHi found her over cloak. She paused, a musing expression on her face. It was made to cover a person front and back from shoulder to foot. At least, it did for her.
Her eyes turned to where Kaze sat. He looked like he was having the time of his life splashing at the water with one hand and watching the way the sunlight reflected from the drops as they fell.
“Kaze?” she called to get his attention.
He perked up at the sound, turning towards her voice instantly.
“I think I found something for you to wear. It might be a bit small, but it’ll have to do for now. At the least, it will keep you warmer.”
AsaHi held the cloak up in front of her, shaking it out for him to see. It was a deep red color with faded gold trim and a loose-fitting black collar. Kaze took a crouched step towards her, his head tilted sideways as he studied it. His eyes slid to her face, giving a confused chirrup.
“What? You don’t think it would look good on you?” she urged. “I think red would be your color.”
He bark-laughed, eyes narrowing playfully.
“Really,” she sighed. “Most of the guys where I come from wear things a lot like this.”
He snuffed, then took the cloak out of her hand.
AsaHi broke into a smile, “That means you will?”
The man grunted.
“Smooth!” the girl laughed. She made a motion in the air with one hand, rolling it in imitation of the rise and fall of smooth ocean waves. It was something the kids back in the School used to do.
He watched her for a moment. With one hand he began to clumsily imitate the hand motion.
AsaHi laughed harder and repeated the hand gesture. “That’s right! Smooth!”
He laughed too. This time, it was a sound more like her own, as compared to the growling-bark he attempted before.
“You really are something else, aren’t you?” the girl leaned back on her heels.
Kaze responded with a big fangy grin.
“Well, how about it? Are you going to sit there and make me wait, or are you going to do the honors?” AsaHi pointed to the cloak in his hand.
He tilted his head, giving the cloak a questioning look. Then he promptly stuck his arm through the collar opening.
“Uh, wait… no…” she shook her head.
He shook his head too and pulled his arm out of the opening. “Kaaa?”
“You’ll rip it if you’re not careful,” AsaHi warned. She lifted her hands up over her head, “First thing you have to do is stand up.”
Kaze blinked at her.
“Stand up,” AsaHi motioned to herself. “On two legs, just like I am. You can’t dress like a man if you don’t stand like one.”
A dubious look fell over his face.
“Come on, I know you can do it! Here,” the girl reached towards him. “I’ll help you.”
The man sat there watching her, studying her standing position. Finally, he reached out and placed his big hand over hers. AsaHi grunted as his other hand came down on her shoulder and struggled his to his feet. He was just as heavy as he was large. It took a bit of juggling for them to steady themselves. By the time it was all done, he had both hands plastered on top of her head while attempting to balance on the slippery rocks.
“I should have picked a better place to try to do this,” AsaHi muttered under her breath.
She moved just a slight inch. Kaze gave a little chirp and clutched at her in surprise.
“Urmph! Kaazeee, you have to pull your hands away and balance on your own,” the girl grated through clenched teeth.
“One hand at a time. It’s not hard. Just put your arms out like this if you think you’re going to fall,” AsaHi stretched her arms straight out on both sides. “Now you try!”
He pulled one hand from atop her head and stretched it out to one side in imitation of the girl.
“Good! Exactly! Now try the other!”
In a slow, choked motion, he held the second arm to the other side.
“Smoooth! Good wor–”
Kaze nearly fell over as he attempted to do the hand motion in response to her “smooth” exclamation.
“Uh, no! Just… just stand there like that, both arms out!” She demonstrated again, “Practice that for a while, okay?”
At least it’ll give him something to do until I get changed.
AsaHi gave him a nervous look, “You… stay right there… practice just like that. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Kaze’s eyes widened with a questioning look and he crooned softly.
“I’m just going right over here, behind these rocks for a moment. I don’t want you to follow me, okay? I’ll be right back…”
He crooned again.
“I promise!” Before he could protest again, she picked up her own change of clothes and hopped from rock to rock until she was sheltered away on the other side of the outcropping.
AsaHi worked as quickly as she could at stripping away the old wet clothes. She couldn’t fight the unnerved feeling that Kaze might decide to do his own thing and stalk up behind her to take a peek. With one eye over her shoulder, she worked the clasps open on the clean blouse, threw on her trousers and topped it off with her small half-cloak.
That had to be a world record, I swear!
When she finally reemerged from behind the rocks, she found him standing exactly where she had left him. Except now he was standing on his hands.
Her mouth dropped open. “Kaa…?”
“Kaa..!” he imitated with a brilliant upside-down smile.
“Are you trying to make fun of me or something?” AsaHi scowled.
Kaze scowled back. With a graceful little hop, he landed upright on his feet again. Then he spread his arms out to both sides.
“You can stop doing that now,” the girl told him. “You only stand like that if you need to keep your balance. It looks like you’ve got everything…”
He made the “smooth” hand motion in the air.
“Yeah, smooth,” AsaHi smiled slightly. Then she shook her head.
He shook his head too, and lowered his arms to his side with a question mark face.
“Um, how about this now?” the girl pointed down towards the cloak that he dropped on the rocks. “Let’s see what we can do to get this on you, yes?”
She watched the care that he took in balancing to lean over and pick up the cloak. When he righted himself, he cocked his head to one side, looking at her.
“Well, you just take that opening up there,” she pointed to the collar, “And…”
He crammed his arm into it once again. Then, looked at her with an inquiring glance.
“Sorta,” AsaHi blanched. Then she motioned to the pair of Apprentice trousers he was wearing. “How did you manage to get those on?”
The look on his face was comical, as if he was trying to say: You had to have been there.
“That part goes around your neck, like this,” she tugged at her own collar. Slowly, she took her half-cloak off, slipping it over her head. Demonstrating, the girl put it back on again. “See?”
Kaze’s mouth opened halfway, a light of understanding in his eyes. He nodded furiously.
“Show me, then?”
With little flourish, the man lifted the cloak up and squeezed his head through the opening. It settled down over his shoulders in a loose fashion. Where it would have reached down to AsaHi’s feet, it barely hung below his waist.
The girl looked him up and down, nodding. “I think that will work! How does it feel?”
Kaze opened his arms, staring down at himself. His eyes turned upward to look at her happy expression. With a little croon, he made the “smooth” motion in the air again.
AsaHi’s clapped her hands together cheerfully. Noticing that clapping made a sound, Kaze imitated her.
One down, who knows how much more to go…
A long sigh escaped the girl as she looked at the wrapping that lay strewn next to her pack.
“Okay,” she nodded. “Let’s see what we can do about that hair of yours.”