It's funny, how far the words I don't know and I don't remember have gotten him in all this. They're excuses that would never have worked at home (earning him no more than a well then, Liu-Shen, find out), but so far away they're magic words that make adults stop and ask if he needs help. ...not that he'd needed help once he was far enough away from home that nobody could figure out where he'd run away from, because he'd actually done pretty well for himself until he got to these stupid plains and their stupid, neverending sun.
"It's like you've never been out in the sun before," the girl with the scarf tied around her hair— Sisuca, that's her name— says, talking a thin line between disapproval at whomever or whatever had raised him and pity at the fact that he's quite literally fried to a crisp. Of course I've been, there was just a lot less of it where I come from is what he's thinking, but obviously he can't say that when everyone here thinks he's forgotten every scrap of his past. Well, not that everyone means more than a handful of people in a place this tiny, but still.
"I wouldn't know," is what he says instead, and she catches enough cheek in that to give him a look in return. Liu knows that look better than he'd like, because it's every look an elder has ever given him. "I'll try to be more careful?"
"You had better," Sisuca says. "Because if you don't stay out of trouble, your big sister is going to wash your cuts out with salt water."
He decides right then and there that Sisuca is the most terrifying person he has ever met, and that he is never, ever going to get on her bad side. And possibly that he should sneak out in the night and move on to the next village, if he can make it there before the sun rises and burns his already angry-pink skin even more.
"I'm telling Dad!" He hasn't actually seen the other kids here yet— presumably Rajim and Sisuca are keeping them away from him until they know he's well enough— but he's heard them, a girl and a boy. The girl is the one shouting at Sisuca, and he gets his first good look at her— hands on her hips, hair in two long tails— when she steps into the room. "Dad said you can't scare him unless he starts lighting things on fire with Sieg and Jale."
If there is one thing Liu will never, ever do, it's light something on fire with Sieg and Jale. He doesn't know who they are, but he will sign a vow swearing to never light anything on fire with them or cover for them lighting anything on fire or hide any knowledge of them ever lighting anything on fire. He will follow them around with a bucket of water and douse anything they do light on fire, if it means this girl will stop making that scary face at him.
"Is he better yet? I wanna see him!" Now it's the boy he hasn't seen until now, poking his scarecrow-pale head in around the pigtailed girl's shoulder.
"He's fine, but don't crowd him." Sisuca stands up, satisfied that Liu isn't about to drop dead on them all, and leaves him to the excited stares of the two kids his own age.
"Is it true Rajim found you out in the middle of nowhere?" This boy is the fastest talker that Liu has ever heard, his words tumbling out all over each other with no space for breathing between them. "How'd you get there without a laggart eating you? Did you fight a laggart? I bet you fought one! That is so cool—"
"Breathe, Sieg," the girl says, and Sieg— somehow, Liu isn't surprised that this kid sets things on fire, even if it's probably by accident— pauses. "I'm Marica, and this is Sieg. Don't worry, he just gets really excited about stuff."
"Jale and I fought a laggart once," Sieg goes on, apparently still stuck on the idea that Liu has defeated all manner of animals of the savannah. It would actually be kind of cool if he had done that, Liu has to admit. "But then his mom had to rescue us. Oh, his mom brought him back some fireworks this time! You wanna help us scare Sisuca with them?"
Liu has absolutely no idea how Sieg got from point A to point B, or who Jale is or what this time means, or even what kind of devastating head injury Sieg's had to think scaring someone as terrifying as Sisuca with fireworks is a good idea. But Sieg is smiling so widely that it's impossible not to smile back; even Marica doesn't look completely opposed to the idea, even if she's not as excited about it as Sieg is. Liu gets a sudden and distinct feeling that he's going to be setting a lot of things on fire with this kid, no matter how much salt Sisuca has.
Maybe it's okay that he can't make it to another village for awhile yet.