The Guild Hall’s clock tower marked exactly ten past noon when we walked away down the hill. I don’t really like goodbyes and farewells so I just shouted a see you later to Sen, and while he was waving back at me, we lost sight of him as the green hills took his place in my view. The dirt path took us to the shore of the river that flowed west to southeast. Shobo stopped when we reached the path that ran along the bank and looked in both directions.
“We are going that way” I said while I kicked his side and pulled the reins to the left.
Shobogenzo prefers to know where we are going and he is not very used to this new landscape. So when he felt that I was sure in which direction we were going, he loosened up.
“You know Shobo, we will both have to get used to go with the flow” I told him.
Shobo then snorted.
“Look Shobo, you see the river?” I said trying to comfort him “It’s always flowing, and if the water finds a rock in its way, it just goes around it. That’s what we will do, we’ll just go with the flow at anytime. We must restrict our expectations about the journey and all will be fine. And we won’t worry too much about plans. We will deal with difficulties as they present themselves to us and we will enjoy every single day, together. You understand?”
Shobo snorted again.
“That’s right. I know you know better” and patted his neck.
We followed the path that ran along the shore for the rest of the afternoon, not really seeing any birds or any other animals. The landscape ahead was mainly semi-dry grass and little mounds on both sides of the river. It was, I must say, a bit boring. But since the walk didn’t ask much effort from the horse, every so often he’d start a little trot here and there.
Shobo’s gentle walk allowed me to get absorbed in my thoughts very quickly from the very beginning of the path. I revised by memory the contents of my travel bags. A traveler with my conditions is more a survivor, so aside from the map, and the compass, I had to think hard about all the necessary items I’d need for the journey. Basic stuff like a knife, imperishable food like nuts and raisins, a tent for cold nights, and a stew pot to cook herbs and other ingredients that I plan to find in the way. “Maybe I can ask basic foods to people I meet on the way in exchange of my many creative skills?!” I thought. “Yes, I think that’d be a good idea”.
When the sun was setting behind the mountains I decided to stop, but before, I needed to find a good place to set up the tent. The side of the river that we’d been walking all day was too open. I needed a much more sheltered setting. Due to the fast fall of darkness in the plateau, I had to ask the horse to make an effort and trot a bit faster. He actually went into a short gallop until we reached a bridge that crossed the river.
“We must cross the river, Shobo” I told him “I don’t think that we will find any sheltered site on this side of the river, and we must be quick in finding some place, because the night is falling upon us already”
Shobo and I crossed the stone bridge and when we reached the other side, he refused to walk.
“Come on!” I shouted “We can’t stay here!”
He walked, but he didn’t follow the path on the left. Instead, he walked straight ahead against my instructions.
“What are you doing…?!” I said whilst pulling the reins.
Shobo snorted and whinnied, so I let go of the reins and dismounted.
“You’re nuts, you know?” I told him “This is not the best moment to play around. We really need a sheltered place, it can get really windy around here, and you’re not even helping me”
Then the horse did something very unusual; he pushed on my back with his forehead, and I tripped and leaned on something.
“A tree!!!” I was so relieved “Trees!!! And there, more trees!” Something I’d missed in the darkness.
Shobo whinnied and rubbed his head against me.
“Oh I’m so sorry, I should have trusted you more!” I said while I rubbed behind his ear “You like that, I know you do.”
After I dismantled the bags that Shobo carried the whole day on his back, I let him wander the steppes. I set up the tent under the trees and discovered that it was rather big, and found some dry grasses that I used as an improvised bed, and laid on it to spend the night, feeling rather alone.
Half an hour later I heard Shobo snorting by the tent’s entry and one only thought crossed my mind. I got up and opened the tent for him to come in.
“Were you missing me already?” I told him while he laid down near the bundle of straw.
“Really” I thought “It’s me who was missing you.”
I then curled up on my comfortable bed, leaned my head against his big belly, and played with his mane in my fingers until I fell deeply asleep.