Sunset's and Sensei's

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"And they rode away into the sunset."

"What's a sunset, Cho?"

"I don't know, but granddad saw one once."

"Oh." Taiki bit his lower lip, the burning desire to ask a question bubbling inside his stomach. He took a deep breath "Why don't we see them anymore?"

Cho looked at him, her dark eyes studying him carefully before she looked away. "Don't know." She leafed through a rack of kimono's, pausing at a deep red one embroided with golden cherry blossoms. Quirking her lip, she shook her head, before continuing, "I'm sure Sensei Kurou would know. Maybe you should go ask him."

Taiki frowned up at his sister. Older than him by two years, she looked like their mother, all soft curves and dark, tumbling hair and pale, pale skin. He always thought she looked like a ghost but apparently it was frowned upon to think your family looks like the dead.

"What?" She asked, her eyes now on him rather than the blue kimono she now held.

"Won't you come with me?" He asked, fiddling with a loose thread of his tunic. He already knew the answer.

Cho sighed, her exasperation evident on her face. "Taiki, you know I have to find this dress for the ceremony. You've already got your hakama and haori. Your ready for the big day. If you really want to find out why we don't see sunsets, you can go see Kurou yourself."

"It's not polite to call your Sensei anything but Sensei, Cho."

She growled at him and again, he thought of her as a ghost; an angry ghost. "Go on, your just annoying me anyway. Meet me back here in an hour though. If you aren't here then, I'm leaving and telling Haha."

Cho disappeared into the shop with a flurry of her clothes and a swish of her hair, leaving Taiki standing outside the store. He sighed and turned, pushing his way through the growing crowd. Market day was always busy but today, it seemed the world wanted to keep him from reaching Sensei Kurou's dojo. Taiki was hit and pushed and shoved, people yelling "Move, kid!" as they hurried along. But mostly, they didn't give him a second look.

Of course they wouldn't. Why would they?

Sensei Kurou's dojo was the only one of it's kind, a small, ramshackle building squashed between a tech store and a bakery. The area in front of the store was deserted, save for the few shoppers who strolled by with as little interest in the shop as they would a pile of rubbish. The window was boarded up, with a hand painted sign labeling it as 'Kurou's Dojo: for those who wish to exhibit their true spirit'. Taiki crouched down so he could read the smaller sign underneath the awning. 'Free fugu'. He felt his stomach flip at the mention of the dish and swallowed nervously. Since when had Sensei Kurou had a fugu license?

"Ah, Taiki, my favourite pupil." Sensei Kurou's voice was like paper, old and crinkly but full of thousands of words of wisdom.

"Hello, Sensei."

"I was just coming to find you." An arm reached out from the doorway. "Come in, come in! Did you bring that sister of yours with you? Cho?"

"It's just me, Sensei."

"Oh." His voice sounded almost disappointed. "Ah well, that's okay. Between you and me, she is a bit annoying."

"Like a ghost." Taiki agreed, nodding his head as he entered the dojo, ducking under the low roof.

Sensei Kurou was a tall, hunched man, with a thick mustache that covered his lower lip and a bald head. His eyes were small and hidden behind shaded glasses that made it look as if he had no eyebrows. Wearing a simple tunic, he looked nothing like the traditional sensei people associated with.

"Now," He asked, brushing off Taiki's comment like he hadn't said a word. "Are you here for the free fugu? I just learnt how to make it and, let me tell you, I'm pretty good at it."

Taiki glanced at the low table that they sat around. A plate of pink fish meat sat in the very center, with some orange shrimp and parsley on top. "Uh, no thank you, Sensei."

"Oh well, more for me." He picked up a piece of shrimp and chomped down on it, the shell cracking between his blunt teeth. He swallowed a few times before asking, "So, if you didn't come for the fugu, why did you come, Taiki?"

"Um, well, you see, Sensei..."Taiki trailed off, suddenly embarrassed by his question.

Sensei Kurou frowned at him and gestured with his hands. "Yes?"

"It's just..."

"What is it?"

"I was wondering..."

"Spit it out, boy!" Sensei Kurou yelled, standing up and slamming his hands onto the table. Taiki flinched back.

"Why don't we see sunsets anymore?"

"Ah." Sensei Kurou sank back down onto the cushion he sat on. "Sunsets. I haven't heard that word since your grandfather."

"So granddad did see one? Cho wasn't lying?"

"No, Taiki, Cho wasn't lying. You grandfather and I were the last people to see a sunset."

"Why?"

"Well, because we were the last people on the surface."

"Surface?"

"Yes. The surface is the only place you can see the sky, which is what you need to see a sunset."

Taiki blinked at Sensei Kurou. "No, Sensei, we can see the sky just fine here." He wondered whether the old man had finally lost his marbles.

Sensei Kurou leaned forwards. "Can you?"

A moment of silence passed through the two, before Taiki stood up and left, thanking Sensei Kurou for his hospitality. The old man waved him on, before shutting the door behind him, blocking the dojo's inside from view.

Sighing to himself, he glanced at his watch and saw his hour was almost up. He was supposed to be meeting Cho soon and he didn't doubt his ghostly sister's word when she said she would tell their mother.

Heading off, he wound his way through the streets back to the marketplace. Taiki shuffled under arms and scurried past angry shoppers who cast glares down at him. He was staring so intently at the ground that he didn't notice the man in front of him until he'd run straight into his chest. His eyes shifted upwards and an apology formed on his lips but no sound came out.

"Oi, watch it!" The man growled, shoving past Taiki and muttering something under his breath.

Taiki barely heard a word. His eyes were glued upwards. What had once been blue, cloud buffeted skies had been replaced with something darker and chipped. Heartbeat thudding, he recognized the substance.

It was rock.

The sky had been replaced with rock.


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