Here is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the novel:
Rutejìmo is playing with Mapábyo and his two children, Kitòpi and Piróma when there is a bird-like screen, someone in the clan was in trouble. As they ponder what is going on, Chimípu leaves the valley at high speed; the two parents protect their children from the warrior’s high-speed exist. They run back to the valley entrance to see Bakóki dying in Tejíko’s arms. While the others get ready to follow Chimípu, Rutejìmo heads back into the valley because he has other duties dealing with Bakóki.
As Rutejìmo dresses for his duties as a kojinōmi, a tender of the dead, Kitòpi comes into his room and asks why his father is a coward. Rutejìmo is already taken on the silence of his duties, so he cannot answer and the guilt tears into him. He is saved by Pidòhu who arrives and tries to explain.
Rutejìmo is coming back after his day of purification after dealing with Bakóki’s death. Chimípu meets up with him and tells him that they saved the other two couriers but lost most of the money the clan needed. They are going to take a job with the Kosòbyo, one of the largest clans in the entire desert.
The day that Rutejìmo and Mapábyo are leaving for Kosobyo City, their children wake them up, curious and active. They talk about why the two are going instead of Mapábyo’s parents. Kiríshi interrupts them to get them going.
Rutejìmo and Nifùni are sparring, but Rutejìmo is using a real weapon. Nifùni gets upset and refuses to fight until he has a real weapon himself. Desòchu insists that Rutejìmo’s fighting skill is enough and demostrates by sparing with his brother, then failing to protect his neck. Rutejìmo hurts himself to pull the blow.
The group arrives at Kosobyo City. It is far larger and more expansive than Rutejìmo had ever seen before. But, just as he was getting overwhelmed by the scope, he noticed white and gold smoke in the distance indicating his duties as a kojinōmi were needed. He splits from his clan to head there.
Rutejìmo meets another kojinōmi on the way to the smoke. To his surprise, the other man is heading away as he decided not to help a night clan’s death. Rutejìmo, on the other hand, always served everyone and continued forward. He came up to a wagon surrounded by warriors. He walked toward the wagon, usually the crowds parted around him. However, Tsupòbi blocked his way. Rutejìmo found the urge to speak, when he did, he stripped away Tsupòbi’s magic and declared him dead to the world. The others left him alone as he attended to a young girl who had been disemboweled and was dying.
Rutejìmo attends to the little girl’s bonfire. As he does, he tries to write the details of the stories she gave him in his book but doesn’t have the room. It saddens him that so many stories are lost because no one remembers. When the fire is done, he leaves his belongings behind and begins his purfication ritual.
Heading back, Rutejìmo encountered Fidochìma, the little girl’s grandfather. Fidochìma is looking for revenge but Rutejìmo suggests he let Mifúno handle it; Fidochìma refuses and they part ways.
Rutejìmo arrives at Kosobyo City but is quickly overwhelmed by the size of it. He tries to find the message board but no one helps him until a guard, Dimóryo, offers to help. They talk a little before reaching the board. Desòchu arrives but bristles at Dimóryo’s attention. The Shimusògo head back to the hotel.
As Rutejìmo, Mapábyo, and Nifùni go shopping, Dimóryo comes up to them with probing questions. Mapábyo doesn’t warm up to her. After the guard leaves, Rutejìmo and Mapábyo head back to the inn for some quiet time.
Rutejìmo is out in Kosobyo City looking for Nifùni who disappeared. He stumbled on Nifùni making a deal with a woman to deliver a message who offers a hundred thousand pyābi to deliver a message. Nifùni almost accepts but Rutejìmo has a bad feeling and tuns it down. Nifùni gets upset and attacked Rutejìmo before they are both kicked out of a bar. Desòchu arrives and insists on taling about it. When Nifùni suggests that Desòchu would always take Rutejìmo’s side, Desòchu punches him.
All of the Shimusògo are sharing a room in the inn. They vote on taking the woman’s job. After a tense decision, they decide not to take the job. Nifùni is upset by the result.
Rutejìmo and Mapábyo are finishing their last shopping when Byochína comes up. Nifùni had gone missing. They search for him but find the corpse of the Kosòbyo woman instead. Soon after that, they find Nifùni who accepted the contract. Dimóryo and other guards show up and try to kill all of them. Mapábyo calls Chimípu and Desòchu who destroy large parts of the city as the runners escape the city.
After the Shimusògo escaped the city, Desòchu attacked Nifùni for betraying them. Rutejìmo watching uncomfortablly until he feels an overwhelming urge to speak up, not as one of the Shimusògo but as Mifúno, the desert itself.
The Shimusògo try to figure out what to do next. They open the case and find out that the Kosòbyo is going to leave Tachìra and possibly set off a bloody war, but they aren’t sure. If they are wrong, then the Kosòbyo will destroy their clan. They decide to send the vote for the entire clan and send Chimípu ahead to make the choice.
While the Shimusògo slept, Kosòbyo’s forces spread out across the land. Their plans of having Chimípu go first was changed when they realized they all had to run. Breaking apart the message into multiple parts, Desòchu plans a unique route for each one. As they do, Fidochìma appears and begs for forgiveness, the desert had already turned her back on him and he had become a banyosiōu.
As the Shimusògo break up, Rutejìmo is held behind with Desòchu. His brother tells him that he isn’t going ahead. Instead he was going to stall the warriors chasing after them even though he knew he was going to die. After a tearful goodbye, Rutejìmo flees as Desòchu and Fidochìma cover his retreat.
Camping alone, Rutejìmo is haunted by his brother’s death and the possibility of losing everyone else in his life.
Rutejìmo struggles to run alone. Then his path meets up with Nifùni right before night. Together, they find shelter though tensions rise as they begin to talk.
Rutejìmo and Nifùni come up to a oasis run by the Nyochikōmu. They have a chance to recover but then Rutejìmo sees smoke which means his duties as a kojinōmi are needed. Nifùni argues and then goes off alone. The old lady tending the oasis offers to keep his things safe, because he is a kojinōmi.
Rutejìmo wakes up back to the spring. Atefómu took care of him. She also tells him that Kosòbyo warriors came and she guided them to Nifùni who they killed. When Rutejìmo gets upset, she offers to let him kill her but he doesn’t. They also talk about how being a kojinōmi also means he’s the desert’s champion, doomed to die like most warriors.
Rutejìmo makes it to Wamifuko City but he is being chased. Allies of Kosòbyo try to stop him but Gichyòbi defends him, killing almost everyone who attacked Rutejìmo.
Rutejìmo tells Gichyòbi what was going on, though relucantly at first. Then Gichyòbi tells him that Hyonèku and Kiríshi were attacked on their rute. Kiríshi died but Hyonèku was severely injured. Rutejìmo rushes for his wife’s daughter and tells him everything, ending with three clans declaring war on Kosòbyo. Then Rutejìmo says he is going to burn Kiríshi’s body, which gets everyone upset until he invokes Mifúno’s name.
Rutejìmo and Gichyòbi sneak out of the city so Rutejìmo can burn Kidóri’s corpse.
Rutejìmo finishes burning Kiríshi’s body. Instead of resting, he packs up, leaves his Book of Ash, and then immediately starts running toward home.
Rutejìmo is getting exhausted running but he doesn’t dare stop in fears of being ambushed.
Rutejìmo answers a call for a kojinōmi only to find out it is a trap. He calls for help and four clans answer the call, all of them dying in the ambush. Then Chimípu arrives and joins the fight.
Rutejìmo wakes up to a field of carnage and Chimípu dying. She tells him to run home. He doesn’t want to but she shoves him away as she dies.
Rutejìmo runs alone, haunted by the deaths of everyone who lost their lives.
Rutejìmo arrives at Three Falls Teeth. Mapábyo is there and he is relived but it turns out that Dimóryo had taken his wife’s form. He calls on the desert to kill the Kosòbyo but Dimóryo manages to poison him before she is killed by the desert.
Running out of time and with poison in his veins, Rutejìmo tries to run as long as he can. Even when his power runs out, he keeps running until the poison saps his strength and he collapses. Mikáryo finds him.
Rutejìmo doesn’t expect to wake up but he does. He finds out that Mikáryo is using magic from her horse’s blood to keep him alive but he can’t sleep. They settle down to a night of talking.
Minutes before Rutejìmo and he managed to survive the night. Mikáryo and Tsubàyo prepare to protect him until the sun rises and he could use his magic, but there is going to be a battle among the Pabinkúe. Rutejìmo knows that if he stops again, he will die so he runs as fast as he can, finally catching the clan’s spirit as he begins his ryodifūne, his final run.
Rutejìmo was the only one to make it home, but he cannot stop without dying. Pidòhu meets him along the way, flying using his magic. Realizing there is a war, they summon help from other clans to protected Rutejìmo as he races to the valley. The Shimusògo slow him down so he can collapse in Tejíko’s arms. As the poison and energies kill him, Kitòpi and Piróma approach to see their father dying. Piróma puts on the kojinōmi clothes and tends to his death.