Chapter 25: Finally Home

It is critical after one’s soul is laid bare, their flaws raw and exposed, and their humanity bruised, that a new adult is celebrated and not derided. What happened in the desert is left to sands and memories.

—Pamiryoki Chiobìna, Tales of Blood and Sands

Desòchu and Somiryòki stopped a few chains away from the entrance of Shimusogo Valley. It was right before sundown and he could feel the flames faded as they walked the remaining distance.

There were two people up on the sentry post above the entry. He spotted Kiramíro right before she disappeared in a cloud of dust. The other took longer but also faded behind the smoke.

Tejíko stopped in front of them. She held a sleeping Rutejìmo in her arms. Her eyes, the remarkable bright green, searched for his.

Rutejìmo had a bandage on his head and the side of his face black from bruises that were clearly visible even past his brown skin. He seemed at peace though, as if his injuries were just a dream.

Desòchu looked at his grandmother and his brother. He had hurt both of them so much and he couldn’t imagine how either would ever trust him again. He struggled with the words.

Tejíko’s eyes grew wet with tears. She held up his brother.

Desòchu reached out and took him, feeling the delicate weight on his injuries. He pulled Rutejìmo close and held him firmly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

She sniffed and wiped at her tears. “I miss them both.”

He nodded and then looked down at Rutejìmo. The little boy cooed for a moment and then nestled his brown face against Desòchu’s scraped chest. He thought about the black ash and the tightness in his chest. When he looked up, he smiled but said nothing.

Kiramíro stopped next to him. She had the same questioning look at his grandmother.

Desòchu gestured to Rutejìmo. “Thank you for saving him.”

She patted him on the shoulder.

Pain radiated from the touch. He hissed but kept himself still to avoid disturbing his brother.

Yutsupazéso hobbled up. “This doesn’t mean you are special,” she said.

Desòchu cringed but then smiled. “Yes, Great Shimusogo Yutsupazéso.”

Then, she smiled. The first smile that Desòchu had ever seen in his life. He didn’t think it was even possible.

“Then let’s celebrate our new warrior!” She raised her hands and dozens of clan members that had somehow appeared around him cheered. “Get the drink and start the fires! And get Gemènyo, Hyonèku, and Kiríshi up and cooking. Those lazy kids need to learn how a real man looks.”

Stunned, Desòchu stared at her. His mouth opened. He was exhausted, tired, and hungry. Every part of his body ached and the only thing he wanted to do was crawl into a bed.

Kiramíro patted him on the shoulder again. “I wouldn’t tell her no. She can be scary when someone keeps a bottle away from her. It’s the Shimusogo Way, after all.”

Desòchu started toward the entrance. “Shimusògo run.”

Kiramíro leaned over. “Right now, I think Shimusògo celebrate.”