Hino Eiji slung the next day's underwear over his stick, and plunged the stick into the sand.
He caught the stick just before his underwear -- purple and black spots -- hit the sand. Last thing he wanted in the morning was sandy underwear. He righted it, and grinned to himself, settling down on his little blanket, legs crossed. He leaned back against his pack and opened a bottle of water. The sun was nearly gone; casting opalescent streaks of gold, pink, purple across the evening sky. Nearly time to sleep.
The others wanted to know why he wasn't coming home yet.
Oh, they were nice enough about it. They tried to understand. But he could see it in their eyes, feel it in their kind questions about the weather and about his health and about the people he'd met. All the things they didn't say, or almost said except then Hina-chan would smack a hand, or Chiyoko-san would loudly change the subject.
How long are you staying away?
We miss you.
You can wander if you must, but don't you miss us?
The answer to the last one was yes. He hadn't expected to form so close a bond with anyone at all, but yes, he did miss them.
He'd go back eventually.
He put a hand in his pocket and withdrew the two parts of Ankh's Medal. "They don't realise. I'm not lonely," he told the Medal seriously, placing it on the blanket next to him. "I have you, Ankh."
He finished his water, and curled up next to Ankh, head on his pack. He pulled a corner of the blanket up over them both.
The blanket was red, of course.