“State your case, Aliqxis!”
“Master, you promised that you will keep my people from harm. You promised me!”
“And have I not spared your people for the sake of that which was promised?”
“Wicked people have increased in the land, and Teki will have the case he needs to chasten the lands of Asia. The good will pay for the deeds of the unjust—unless something is done.”
“What is it that you are asking of me, Aliqxis?”
“Send one of the two sons that you promised to me and my people a thousand years ago. Send him that they may restore balance, or Teki will destroy my beloved people.”
“You have asked much of me.”
“Forgive me, my Master.”
“I have weighed the heart of a youngling in the lands to the south, one with your blood flowing through him. He will be the one, but he is not yet ready.”
“Master, if nothing is done soon, we will lose them all: men, women, and our children. Will you forfeit all for the sake of one?”
“Very well, Aliqxis, I shall hasten his destiny. I shall go into the land and afflict the youngling with a burden for the sake of your people. He will become a man of great sorrow and pain, at your request.”
“Yes, Master, this is the way it has to be.”
It was a fair morning as usual. A woman stood in the river washing her clothes with her little boy. From the sides of her eyes, she caught the ambling movement of the old traveller, the same one who visited two years ago. He wore a hat so wide that it sheltered the basket he carried on his back.
“You again!” said the woman.
“Oh?” reciprocated a deep tone. The old traveller chuckled, “How is the boy treating you?”
“He’s getting on well. We were just washing our clothes together. He seems to enjoy helping me—don’t you, son?” The little boy nodded, and the old traveller closed in and laughed, extending his arm to ruffle the boy’s hair.
“See, I told you he would settle down.”
The woman stood on the balls of her feet and angled herself to peep over his shoulder. “So, what have you got in the basket?”
“Someone special. She’s here to meet your little one.”
“So that’s it, you have brought me another child.”
As he was about to remove the basket from his back, the old man paused, “A blind girl. You do not want her?”
“Oh no, no! I will take care of her and treat her as my very own. The poor thing, where did you find her?”
“On a roadside, far from here—abandoned, of course. Plucked this little flower up from the ground and threw her into the basket of beans. We’ve been travelling companions for many weeks now.”
The woman expressed a confused demeanour. “But she’s such a pretty child, isn’t she? Why would . . .” She extended her hands to embrace the child. “Just give her to me. Me and Johannan will take good care of her, won’t we, Johannan?” The little boy smiled and nodded with enthusiasm.
“He seems quite excited about having a new playmate.”
“What is the child’s name?” said the woman.
“I’ve grown accustomed to the name Ayushi.” The traveller kneeled down to take the girl out of the basket. “Say hello, little Ayushi. This woman will be taking care of you from now on.” Ayushi gripped onto his forearms and remained quiet. The traveller chuckled, “Err, perhaps she needs more time. The two children are quite the set, they have some kind of special bond. You may not understand this, but it was the will of the heavens to bring her here. You three belong together for some reason of fate.”
“The will of the heavens? I’ve never heard of such things before,” said the woman.
“Yes, as soon as I picked her up, the wind began to blow in the direction of this village. You have to see it to understand: the grass, the trees, everything bending and pointing in this direction. And the moment I got here, it stopped.”
The woman repaid him with her most delightful smile, “Well, I will raise them as my very own. You can be sure of that, old traveller.”
The man’s wide sedge hat tilted up towards the sky. “I know you long for a family, but these two children are very different; they will not be like brother and sister. I can sense it—it seems to be the will of the heavens.”
“Let’s get her out of the basket. Come, Johannan, come and introduce yourself to Ayushi.”
Johannan walked over and took hold of Ayushi’s hand, and they both giggled. The woman clasped her hands in admiration. “Wonderful! They like each other.”
The old traveller swivelled to face them and caressed his bearded chin. “Perhaps she doesn’t need much time at all.”
The nearby trees began to clatter; the rapid movements of the woman’s eyes exposed that she was surprised. “That’s a very strong gust of wind. We don’t get winds like that round here.”
“See! Did I not tell you?” The man pointed to the sky. “It is the will of the heavens. The sky is rejoicing that you are finally together. It could well be that the heavens have been waiting for this day to come.” He wagged his finger at her, “Great fortune I predict.”
He hoisted his basket onto his back. “Well, that’s my job done then. I shall be off.”
The woman laughed, “Just like that. You are a very mysterious old man.”