Note: Sora is from Sand and Glass; and it turns out Shuu has his own story, Sea and Glass. WIPs both of them.
Shuu. Age 18. After bucket conversation.
Shuu wandered into his room, arms hanging limply at his sides. They swung slightly back and forth as he walked, shaking with exhaustion. Three hours of bucket holding. That was harsh, even for Old Man Prasad.
“You okay?” Sora asked from his bed. He was laying back, reading a military tactics manual, ankle propped on his knee.
Shuu flopped down onto his bed, sprawling out lazily. “Yeah.” He wouldn’t be able to lift his arms for days. Or until he had to do it all over again tomorrow.
“Why do you antagonize Old Man?”
Shuu sighed. “I don’t know. If he wouldn’t… keep needling I’d be able to keep my mouth shut.” But Old Man just kept at him. What do you mean? You have a look. Why did you laugh?
Shuu turned his head to watch Sora. Sora was gorgeous. His small, lithe body and dark hair complemented Shuu’s more muscular form and light blond hair. Shuu often considered the beauty of their contrast in the mirror in the morning when they brushed their teeth. After they turned twenty-one, he had every intention of pursuing Sora. It would be a hard time, at first. Sora would be crushed, of course; his dream was to be a guardian. But Shuu would be there for him. Console him. Love him. Show him what a wonderful life they could have in the outpost. He estimated a 75% probability of successfully wooing Sora.
Sora was quiet. His foot was bouncing nervously on he knee, and he chewed at his lower lip. After some more moments of silence, “Shuu?”
His eye lids were so heavy. He slowly blinked. “What?”
Sora sat up and crossed his legs into the lotus position. “You don’t really want to be a guardian, do you?”
“Then why are you still here?”
How could he explain to Sora? Sora was so focused on being a guardian that he understood nothing else. “Well, you want to be a guardian right?”
“More than anything.” Sora’s face softened—he must be thinking wistfully of his nonexistent traveler again.
“What happens to people who train to be guardians, but aren’t chosen?”
Sora looked pensive, then said, “Well, they become the leaders of the outpost.”
“I want to be one of them.”
“Oh. What if you’re chosen to be a guardian?”
Shuu smiled. “I won’t be.”
Shuu. Age 20. 2 months left.
Shuu watched warily as Old Man Prasad poked angrily at his dead watermelon vines. Based on Old Man’s level of agitation, Shuu estimated a 72% probability that they would be holding water buckets within two hours.
It wouldn’t be a random activity. No. It would be punishment for failing to do something insanely difficult. Like herding cats. Shuu sighed. At the prospect of water buckets, he actually envied Sora in the world with his traveler. And then he thought that in two short months he’d be free to pursue his own dreams in the outpost, while Sora lived out his outside of the outpost.
Two months and there would be no more water buckets. Two months and he could take a lover. Two months and he would not longer be eligible to be a guardian. Two months and he cou—
“Excuse me.” A small hand tugged on his shirt. Shuu looked down and frowned. It was Adam, the outpost leader’s son.
“Dad wants to see you. He’s in his office.”
Shuu looked at Old Man Prasad stalking angrily towards them. He looked down at Adam and grinned. “Great timing. Let’s go.”
The outpost central office was, aptly enough, located in the center of the outpost. Old Man Prasad’s house was on the far west edge. The walk was long, but Shuu was used to long walks. Since they started training outside the outpost in the environ-suits, Shuu had developed a great appreciation for walking free in the outpost.
They were in the end of their summer season. The weather was cooling by 13% per week and the rain being increased by 20% per month. One third of the population had been temporarily reassigned to harvest duties. He loved watching the outpost function. It was like a living, breathing organism. Internal systems being meticulously maintained to weather the harsh outside.
Two more months and he could take his place in shaping the future of the outpost. He had so many ideas on how to make it healthier and happier. He’d been studying the histories of both their own Shino’i outpost, as well as the histories of the other outposts, and found some ingenious improvements that other outposts had made. He might not want to be a guardian, but he was sure glad they existed. Without the travelers and guardians they would be so ignorant of so many things.
“Are you going to be a guardian?”
“There is only a zero-point-oh-oh-two percent chance of that happening—so I doubt it.”
“My dad says you’re going to be a guardian.”
What? Shuu stopped, too stunned to keep walking. “Why—“ He cleared his throat. “Why does your dad say that?”
Adam stopped walking and turned around. “Why’d you stop?”
“Adam, why did your dad say that?”
Adam shrugged. “Cause that’s what he said. Come on.”
His feet felt heavier as he dragged one then the other forward. He had a bad feeling about the world now. The day wasn’t quite so beautiful, and did it feel a little too chilly for this time of year?
Eventually his slower but longer strides caught up with Adam again. “Did a visitor come today? From outside?”
Adam ran ahead and jumped around grinning. “Yes! He came in all by himself in a hovercraft and then all of our drivers went out. I want to be a pilot one day. Hovercrafts are soooo cool when they zoom and whoosh…” Shuu kept walking slowly, ignoring Adam’s excited chatter.
Two more months. That was all until he could have his dreams. Two more months and someone else could be guardian. Except now, all his plans were moot, and he’d have to refocus on the unknown man.
Adam ran farther ahead to stand by his father. His father was talking to a short man in tattered clothes. Weariness hung on the man link a drenched bed sheet weighing down a clothes line. The first piece of the equation that was his new future glanced at him and frowned. He crossed his arms and shook his head at Adam’s father. Great. Just great. Not only did he get a traveler, but one who didn’t want him. He couldn’t wait to see what surprises the next day held.