Adashino and Ginko in the heat of the night (and day). Written with prompts from qwerty.
Ginko merely regards Adashino with the same expression that he has answered all his previous queries, which is none at all, before remarking that it would be impossible for them to retrace their steps in the rapidly encroaching darkness. Better to wait until dawn, when the path towards the river will be more easily visible.
Today's trek has been the longest yet; it is already the second evening, and for a country physician unused to traveling further than the nearest town, what initially seemed to be a short excursion into the mountains to collect rare and (according to his guide) highly efficacious herbs has taken on the proportions of an expedition to nowhere, with no sign of the mythical plants, and no end in sight. Adashino has not uttered a single word of reproach or regret except to sigh and comment that it would have taken him only a day to get to the apothecary in the next village and back. Although Ginko knows that this is true, he is also aware that Adashino usually stays rather longer than that, to exchange news and medical information with whichever fellow members of the profession who happen to be in the vicinity, and the occasional wandering mushishi as well.
Adashino, who had been studying his map with such intensity that a hole could have appeared in the paper even without benefit of his monocle, looks up with shining eyes at his companion.
"I've heard of these caves before, the mineral springs here are reputed to be ideal for restoring vitality!"
Before Ginko can stop him, he has bounded in the direction of the caves with an enthusiasm completely at odds with his previous demeanour. By the time the mushishi has reached the entrance, Adashino is standing in the middle of the cavern, face turned upwards admiringly towards an immense stalactite twisting down from the roof, its base invisible in the darkness high above them; the doctor's expression turns blissful as a huge drop of crystal-clear water splashes his face, and he involuntarily opens his mouth to take in the cool refreshing liquid.
There is nothing Ginko can do now; the best thing, as he had originally told Adashino, is to wait it out until morning.
He tries to get some rest while Adashino becomes increasingly animated in sketching the strange shapes of the rock formations and exclaiming excitedly at the water's marvelous powers of rejuvenation, but is reluctant to speculate about their constituents and refuses to let Adashino fill his flask with it.
When it becomes obvious that the brightness in Adashino's eyes is more fever than fascination, and that his ramblings and writings have taken on an uncharacteristic incoherence, Ginko binds the doctor firmly in his coat, securing his hands and feet with a stout rope that they had never got the opportunity to use, taking care not to come into direct contact with his streaming face and the small dribble at the corner of his mouth, and settles back with his pipe to wait for Adashino to sweat it out.
The night has a thousand eyes, none watching Adashino's groaning and rocking as keenly as Ginko from a dry corner of the cave; only his vigilance allows him to dodge Adashino's sudden lunge which leaves the doctor sprawled on the floor, panting and staring thirstily at him. Ginko watches impassively until Adashino's eyes close and the rictus of his face relaxes into his usual features. Only after surveying the smoke-wreathed surroundings and kicking the prone form a few times for good measure, does the mushishi prop Adashino up in his arms and pour the contents of his own water-bottle into his mouth a little at a time, stroking his throat to facilitate swallowing.
Adashino's consciousness returns with the light, and he avoids Ginko's eye for the rest of the morning; the necessity of conserving energy for the long journey home is only part of the reason that they fall silent after a short exchange soon after Adashino has managed to recall most of the night's events in vague form.
"I didn't, er, trouble you too much, I hope?"
"No more than usual."
After a pause during which Adashino finds several shrubs more interesting than his medical knowledge warrants, he clears his throat and mumbles,
"Mushi made me do it, didn't they."
"If you say so."
"I shall correct that map the moment I get back to the village."
The sun is high in the sky when they reach the river. Ginko bends to wash his face, cupping his hands to bring the water to his lips. Adashino watches, wondering if it is the heat that is stifling him.