With great assistance from the priest’s boar, the last fistful of dirt was scattered across the Yi’s burial mound before sunset. As the tepid light gave way to pearly streamlets through the moonlit leaves, the three men settled themselves into alcove beside the stream that ran alongside the length of the trail.
Long shadows fluttered across the surface of the water seemingly picking at the twinkling reflection of the moon that wrought their forms. When the craftsman and priest were able to start the fire, the shadows drew out their blackened tendrils further into the depths of the forest, now grasping at the sound of the nightly insects.
The priest leaned against the large boar which supported his back as he carefully removed the beaded harness from its mouth. Snorting gruffly in thanks, the boar returned to a docile repose as its companion placed the harness into a pouch that hung from his waist. As the lambent flames climbed up the moss shielded wall, Arnold couldn’t help but notice that the tired downcast eyes the priest wore were similar to that of craftsman’s when he had first met him.
Arnold took a bowl of soup that Tristan handed him and pressed his back snug against the damp moss which provided curiously comforting warmth against the ensuing chill of night. The youth held the bowl close to his nose, allowing the steam to condense and warm his face. After taking his first sip of the broth, Arnold gave a cursory glance towards the priest who was rummaging about another pouch to reveal a large vegetable of which was promptly offered to the boar who consumed it nosily.
“What’s its name?” Tristan inquired, directing his carved utensil toward the animal.
“The boar? The boar doesn’t have a name. At least not one that I’ve ever given it,” the priest replied, stroking the boar’s fur tenderly.
“Travel all this time together with no name between you?” the craftsman asked.
“It’s not as if our travels together have ever elicited any need for conversation,” Brandon responded, the boar snorting as if to affirm the statement.
“Have you known this boar long?” Arnold asked, extending a hand to pet the boar himself, though all he received was a low grunt that sent a puff of sand in his direction.
“All from the Vu family are presented with a boar of which they will grow with for the rest of their lives. I have known this boar since I was but a wee seed. No sooner was I born that it was set beside me in the cradle. A longstanding tradition to the pig god that saved the clan many centuries ago,” the priest explained, uncovering another large vegetable and taking a bite out of it.
“Do the boars help you with your priestly duties?” the craftsman spewed with great interest through a mouthful of broth.
“An animal can only do so much. The boars are our companions and are often our methods of transportation. Us priests feed them and care for them. The relationship generally doesn’t extend beyond this however,” the priest exclaimed, tossing the rest of the vegetable to the boar.
The large animal scraped the vegetable over with its tusk and again accepted the food graciously, its one open eye staring intently at the youth who had seemed to have taken an interest in it. Arnold returned the stare, though not overtly, being sure to divide his attention between it and the bowl in his hands.
The boar’s eye, a plain of onyx blackened dilation, created a prime canvas for the world to reflect off of. Similar to the water’s surface and in part due to the flickering flames and sparks beside it, the boar’s eye rippled with the shining white cataract of the moon overhead. As Tristan and the priest continued with their small talk, the youth examined the boar’s encapsulating pupil, finding it frightening, but beautiful all the same.
“You two seem like an unlikely pair of travelers. What is your story?” the priest asked.
“It was like we had said before; we are seekers for the true meaning of life. Some time ago, Arnold appeared at my doorstep with a search of which I had to experience myself. It has been many days and nights since then and we have yet to find anything as to the indication of the meaning of life. However our search has led us here. We met Jason of the Yi dynasty, and now we sit here with you,” the craftsman told while kicking a loose branch back into the fire.
Arnold downed the last of the soup and kneeled over to wash out the bowl in the stream. The subsequent silence of the conversation allowed for the low buzz and rumble of passing flies and distant deer to proliferate the air. As what was left of the oily residue caught the glint of moonlight from beyond the canopy, the same shining white spark within the boar’s eye floated along with the water.
“How long do you two intend on searching for this mythical meaning of life?” the priest inquired.
“For as long as it takes for us to find it,” the craftsman answered confidently.
“Surely you don’t wish to end up like the old Yi? Why look for something that might not even exist in a form that can actually tell you?” Brandon asked.
“Because we must know. Even by the end of Jason’s life, he found what he was looking for. If, by the slimmest of margins, we are able to finish our search by the end of our lives, then we must keep searching!” the craftsman stated vigorously. Arnold listened carefully, kneeling at the stream.
“But the Yi had stopped his search and still found what he wished to find,” the priest began. “Your search is noble. The two of you are the bravest souls I have ever come to meet on my pilgrimage, which is why I bid you end your search. You two deserve to live comfortably so that you may live long and with happiness. My guess is that, by the end of your days, you will learn the true meaning of life anyway.”
Arnold heard Tristan set his bowl aside upon the sand and stretch his legs out far enough to kick another flurry of sparks into the darkened atmosphere.
“I’ve lived that life before, and believe me when I say, that there is no happiness in a life of comfort,” the craftsman said wistfully.
The constant zephyr of the night carried small waves across the surface of the water, disturbing the tides. Arnold could feel the heat of the flame being blown to his back as he looked off into the enveloping darkness of the distant trees.
A silver curtain of light broken through the black of the foliage focused the youth’s attention. There, among the recesses of the dark, the youth could see the faintest glow of yellow permeate through the cloak of night. As the radiating glow of light bounded back and forth, appearing and disappearing behind the shrubbery, Arnold stood, and turned to face the priest.
“You say that the old Yi found what he sought despite initially failing during his searches yes?” the youth inquired. The priest returned a questioning look, but nodded in confirmation.
“That’s right. If he had never gone on his journey at all, he would’ve found what he was looking for anyway,” the priest replied.
“Perhaps. But do you not think that the Yi’s life journey was also important?” the youth asked.
“Why, of course it was important in the end. His life was molded by the events in his past. Those are things that cannot change. What I mean for you two to understand is that if you already know the destination and guarantees of your future, there’s no point in partaking in a search that will inevitably lead to nothing,” the priest retorted.
“Then allow me to ask you this again, do you know, in all certainty, that you will achieve salvation?” Arnold asked. The priest crossed his arms about his chest, straightening his posture and leaning forward slightly.
“Then does that not make your journey through life all the more valuable?” the youth directed. The priest briefly but slowly diverted his eyes, returning them immediately to give his answer.
“Do you know in all certainty then, that my companion and I will learn the true meaning of life by living a life of comfort?” the youth asked.
“Then does that not make our journey all the more important?”
The priest did not answer, instead crossing his legs reflecting over the youth’s words. Tristan smiled and nodded toward Arnold, acknowledging the points the youth was able to make, that he could not. Exchanging glances between both the priest and Arnold before turning and looking off into the foliage, there, amassed in a massive cluster of bobbing and weaving streaks of yellow luminesce was an orchestra of life.
“Fireflies…” the craftsman uttered, almost dumbfound and pointing off into the woods.
The priest lifted his head to be met with a new night’s sky. One glimmering and glowing like the real night’s sky though confined under the canopy of the foliage and the brush. The wave of glowing insects receded in and out of the darkness, attracted by the fire. As the more daring of the swarm came to investigate the small encampment, their bodies orbited the three men making them appear as spatial anomalies within the alcove.
The robed man was completely struck in awe as Tristan himself laughed excitedly at the spectacle. Brandon reached for his staff, holding it out as several of the flies came to land and bask before him. Arnold took a step toward the priest and pointed to the boar.
“A name,” the youth said, a silent vigor burning within his heart. The priest diverted his attention back to the youth who himself was now being surrounded by the bioluminescent creatures.
“The boar does not have a name,” the priest repeated curiously.
“Perhaps it’s time to have one.”
The boar’s eye, once a sea of black reflecting the contrasting orb of white now burned with the fire and color of the dancing fireflies before them. Swirling within a little world of its own, Arnold exchanged a look of mutual understanding as the animal lifted itself from the sand.
The boar huffed and bellowed, releasing a load cry and dowsing the campfire in a layer of dust, leaving the three men with all but the moon and the fireflies. The priest, having been displaced from his initial seated position, simply beheld the standing boar whose eyes glimmered with the golden hue of the swarm.
“Fireflies…” the priest gaped aloud, backing himself into Arnold’s legs.
“And so it shall be. The boar’s name, is Firefly.”