Before a year had passed I was restless. Balsa knew before I did; I saw her watching, and was at first puzzled by the new lines around her eyes.
We were in the kitchen, peeling roots. I thanked her again for all that she had done for me, and asked how I might repay that debt; she replied that it was only right to settle debts before leaving a place. And she set me to bringing in the washing, and taking inventory in the cellar, and cleaning the baths.
It went on for some time. Until Balsa struggled to find new tasks for me, and wore an expression that made me sad and guilty.
I avoided her eyes and their lines. I wondered if it was wrong to go – I hoped that I might stay. But men had made roads that went north, and even had there been no roads I would have been forced to go that way, lest I live without deserving each breath.
Spring turned to summer, and one morning Balsa gave me a bag.
“It is best to go when it is warm.” She kept her face blank and I was torn.
“Go on!” Balsa thrust the bag into my arms, responding gruffly to my weak thanks.
Not knowing what else to do, I walked to the door of the inn. Hesitating there I could not stop tears from gathering, and though I knew I should not, I turned back.
I shall never forget Balsa, leaning on her bar, gazing after me with such a sorrow that I ran.
For there was no other way to escape the love of that woman, who had taken me in. I clung to the cloak she gave me and went north, taking the roads by night so that no one would forestall me, and I walked until I came to the capital. In Makase I finally found the money in the bottom of the bag that Balsa had packed, an amount that made my heart ache.
I hid under the cloak and made use of the money, so that my first week in Makase was good. Although I learned much in that state of comfort, the fear of being on the streets was upon me, and the white paper room echoed so that I was compelled not to tarry.
On the night that I found the house I wept, giving up the precious cloak, and the bag. Then I drew my hands over my eyes, so that they would be dry forevermore.
I made myself filthy and wretched, and I did not sleep. The next night I deposited myself outside the gate of that great house and was as one given up for dead. Again I did not sleep, but was awake with eyes shut when the gate opened, and hit me, and somebody gave an exclamation. Then that person cursed, and the hands that touched me would have surely thrown me away, had not another voice called.
In this way I took the luck of the damned for my own, and entered the house of Sato Ashizai.
This is my 100th post. Thank you for reading!