These were all the things he had experienced that night. He didn't know what exactly had happened. All he knew was that the humans were getting into some kind of fight. That seemed to happen a lot lately. Before he knew it, he had been thrown full on into a fight against his brethren. It might have saddened him, except that he didn't really consider the other thieves as "brothers", per se. Besides, they had all fought one another before. It was nothing new. Only this time, he was stupid enough to let his guard down. He had been fighting against one of the humans, when he heard a hiss behind him. One of the nekos 102, he recalled had attacked him. He had forgotten that 102 had an affinity for that particular human. What's more, he had forgotten that 102 was a stronger neko then he. Bigger, too. Which is why he was dead.
He was dead... wasn't he?
He had faded in and out of consciousness all night and all morning. He could barely tell what was day and what was night. It had all meshed together in the fray. Nearing the latter time of his numb darkness, he had seen something. It was... strange. A face. He couldn't tell whose it was, or why it was there. Just a face. Standing over him. Staring. Perhaps this face was what the humans called "angels"? He had heard of these as a kit, but didn't know much about them. He just knew that they were heavenly. Divine, almost.
After a while, he finally did wake up.
For a moment, he was unsure where he was. He was alive, which was shocking in itself. But more then that, he was laying on something... comfortable. Odd. Comfortable things were reserved strictly for humans. Nekos were restricted to the floor or tree roots for sleeping. So who in their right mind would put him in something comfortable? And what would Leader do once he saw him...?
As he laid there, his eyes shut, his mind drifted to his leader. He had known Leader most of his life. When he was a young kit, just old enough to leave his mother, he and a group of other young nekos were transported in large, wheeled cart, caged from top to bottom. He knew sadness at the feeling of being torn from his mother, but not much else. Some of the other kits were crying. He did not cry. He felt no need to. Sadness yes, but no need for tears. They were making their way through a hillside, when a sudden blast knocked them to the side. Amidst the screaming and failing, the cart tipped over and broke apart, scattering the nekos everywhere. Some took the opportunity to flee, others cowered in groups. As for him, he remained where he was, more out of curiosity then being petrified. That's when he saw them.
Men in black or dark green. Each with a blade in their hand, or a neko at their side in the same garb. And all with silver dog tags surrounding their necks. One of them spoke boldly, a short dagger twirling within his fingers. The human driver seemed frightened of him. Instantly, a sort of admiration dawned on the neko. Then, the men advanced. Many of the remaining kits were terrified, some even fainting from pure fear. He was the only one to stand, unafraid.
Unafraid and curious.
The man who spoke seemed to appreciate his unwavering gaze. The human was a statuesque man, much taller then himself. He had vibrant red hair that was kept in a thick pony tail, his eyes a strange, clear blue. The little kit found himself mesmerized. It was from then on that his life changed. The man was called many things. The King of Bandits, Bonkotsu, the Shadow Lord. But the neko came to simply regard the man as Leader. It was fitting. His loyalty and interest was rewarded soon enough. After he had grown and developed some, Leader began to use his body. It hurt at first. But he soon came to familiarize with the pain. There was even a part of him that was proud of it. All these underlings, all these meaningless minions... and yet he was the one Leader used.
To see Leader leave him to die like that... was numbing.
Of course, he knew the ways of his new life. It was no secret that a wounded solder was as good as a dead one. But perhaps there was one part of him, one tiny, miniscule part, that had hoped wished even that Leader would rescue him. Alas, he did not. And so, he was left to die.
He was left to die... in something comfortable?
That brought him back to the situation at hand. He was still confused, still utterly unaware of what was happening. Having no idea where he was or what he was laying in, he began to let his eyes flutter open. He stared at a slanted ceiling... but the thieves all slept in camp, beneath the stars. What part of camp required a roof? Looking around, he realized that he was in a room. A house, perhaps. Even more confusion bombarded him. That's when a smell entered the window.
Instantly, his confusion was forgotten as the smell of smoked salmon came to great him. His stomach growled painfully as he sat up. A white hot thrill ran up his spine, his wounds still recent. He hissed, gripping his stomach tightly before looking up. Ears perked, he gazed out the window.
A fire sat in a pit, blazing beneath two skewers. On those skewers were two delectable looking fish, their skin bubbling from heat. His mouth began to salivate, his eyes widening with want. He had never gotten much of a decent meal with the Thieves. Just the scraps of what people would leave behind. Ignoring his throbbing body, the neko slid from the bed and got to his feet, crouching a bit. His bones ached and his chest burned. He clutched himself, staggering outside to where the delicious smelling food lay in wait. But, once stepping outside, he froze.
Sitting on a log beside the fire, prodding the flames with a stick, was a man. He had his back turned to the neko, a nasty looking blade by his side. As a rule, nekos were not given weapons. They were taught only to use their claws and their teeth. But he knew how bad a long sheet of steel felt in between a bone or two. So he remained back. He would have ran off into the forest, despite his pain, had the temptation of food not been present.
"You can approach me, you know."
The neko nearly jumped.
Turning, the man let his eyes fall upon him. Instantly, the neko placed his face. He knew this man. This was an enemy of Leader's. Leader had tried robbing him many times, but had never come out successful. Not to mention a good many times this man would interrupt one of their robberies in progress. Without skipping a beat, he laid his ears flat against his skull, his teeth bared and his eyes burning. A dangerous hiss came from the back of his throat, the fur at the base of his tail puffing up in defense. The man didn't seem offended or frightened.
"I know, you don't like me." He turned back to the fire, pushing a few logs this way and that. "But I went through the trouble of bringing you here. You might as well have something to eat before you run off."
His ear flickered as he listened to the man. He wasn't threatening him... nor did he seem mad at all. Was the the one who rescued him? Anger was soon replaced with even more bafflement as he stood there, unsure of what to do next. He couldn't fight, he was too weak. He couldn't run, the missed opportunity for food would haunt him. He watched as Enemy Man leaned forward, plucking a skewer from the pit and turning back to him. The neko sniffed the air, unable to deny the utter desire that welled within him. He turned his eyes back up to Enemy Man. This had to be a trick...
"Take it," said Enemy Man.
For a few moments, the neko did nothing. Then, he began to inch his way towards the food. He had to constantly swallow to keep himself from drooling as he got closer. Reaching his hand out, he quickly swiped the stick from Enemy Man's grasp and scuttled over to where one of the large logs sat. He perched himself atop it, clutching the fish close to him. After giving it a good sniff to make sure it wasn't poisoned, he took a bite.
Flavor like nothing he had ever tasted filled his mouth. He could feel his tail swish back and forth automatically as he swished the meat around in his mouth. It was nothing like the scraps he was used to. Herbs, spices, butter flavors... All so delectable. So wonderful. Without any sign of restraint, he began to devour the fish in large bites, swallowing them all whole. By the time it was all gone, he began to lick the skewer clean, wanting more of the wonderful fish. Soon, however, all he had was an empty stick. He stared at it before looking up to his host.
Enemy Man had just started to nibble on his own fish, watching him without shame. The neko's eyes drifted from Enemy Man's face to his fish. His tail wrapped around his ankles as he stared. The end of his appendage gave a little flicker or two, and instantly he began to dream up ways of getting that food for himself. He didn't have to, however, as Enemy Man soon held it out to him. Surprised, the neko's ears perked. Giving one quick glance to the human, he grabbed the stick and horded that as well, eating it a bit slower this time to preserve the memory of the flavor. It wasn't often he got such a meal. As he gnawed on the fish, he kept his attention on Enemy Man, as did the human.
"At least you have enough sense to accept food that's offered to you," said Enemy Man, his chin in his palm. He watched lazily, not minding that his food had been taken. "Do you speak at all?"
With his second fish half gone, the neko paused. He was still suspicious of this human. There clearly was something he was hiding. Why else would he do this if not to use him later for something? It was only natural. He thought that if he remained silent long enough that Enemy Man would move on. But the human remained vigilant, his eyes never leaving the neko. Finally, he swallowed what was in his mouth and said:
"Some," Enemy Man repeated. "Well that's good. Some nekos can't speak at all. I guess that means you're one of the smart ones." He rubbed beneath his eye, making a thoughtful noise to himself. He looked back up to him. "Do you have a name?" This question left the neko bemused. Enemy Man held out his hand. "A name. You." He paused. "For example." He held a hand to his chest. "My name is Riiko. Riiko."
A bit apprehensively, he mimicked: "Riiko."
Enemy Man or rather, Riiko nodded. "Right. So do you have one? What is it that the other thieves call you?" His ear twitched a bit in thought. After taking a few bites from his fish, he looked back up.
"Wun thur-tee-seven," he said finally. That was right... that was what he was called by others. All the nekos went by names like that. He reached up to try and show him his tags, when he realized that they were not around his neck.
Anxiety grasped him as he moved his hand about, trying to find his tags. He finally looked down to see that they were indeed not there. The absence of those tags seemed to strike him hardest of all.
"You're not a Shadow Thief anymore." He snapped his head up as Riiko began talking again. "They left you for dead, didn't they?" A silence sat between them, the only sound the cracking of the fire pit. His eyes drifted downward to his fish, which was half eaten and getting cold. "They'd never take you back in this condition. You might as well not exist to them."
"AGH!" With a growl, the neko threw the fish skewer at Riiko's head. The man easily dodged it, and the neko began to regret the action very soon. Still, his pride was bigger then his stomach, which was satisfied with the one fish as it was. He gripped the edge of the log he sat on, glowering at Riiko now. He couldn't help but feel surly after such a comment. Picking the food up from the ground, Riiko dusted it off and took a bite. The neko began to regret it even further now. He watched for a moment or two before a random throb of pain caused him to curl forward a bit, clutching his stomach.
Riiko watched lazily as he struggled to calm his body down. Setting his breakfast aside, the man moved over to the neko. A bit taken aback, he slashed him across the face, leaving three little scratches against his cheek. Riiko didn't so much as flinch. With strong hands, he moved his feet to the ground, causing him to sit on his bottom, and his hands out of the way. He observed his wounds closely before standing up straight.
"I'll be right back." With that, he left his side in order to head into the little lopsided house. The neko waited, listening carefully to the man inside. He seemed to be rustling through a few things. Upon coming back out, he had with him a little box and a folded cloth of faded purple. Setting the cloth aside, he sat on his knees and opened the box first.
Instantly, the putrid smell of alcohol shot upwards. The neko shied away, covering his nose. But Riiko didn't seem to mind it. He took a bit of cloth and held up a small, glass vial. Inside was the horrid smelling liquid the neko was sensing. He opened it up and poured a bit on the cloth. Inching forward, he pushed the box away. "This may sting," he warned. He then began to wipe off the neko's open wounds with the cloth.
The neko immediately felt the burn of the stuff, yelping in surprise. He wanted to yank himself away, but he had always been taught to never show weakness in the face of pain. It gave the enemy the idea that they had already won. So he remained firm, his fur rigid and his ears laying flat. Soon, the pain began to ebb away, and his wounds felt... clean. He would have touched them if Riiko had not pulled out a roll of fresh gauze to wrap them up in. This was something that he recognized. Riiko instructed him to raise his arms up, which he did. The man then carefully wrapped his torso tight, making sure that nothing open was exposed to the world. After pinning it together, Riiko set the box aside and held up the purple cloth.
"Get undressed." Suspicion once more rose within the creature and he glared. "Just do it. Those clothes are filthy. If you can even call them clothes." Huffing, he began to remove the leather on his body. The shorts were always a bit irksome to remove because of how tight they were, but they allowed for easy movement of his body, which is why he wore them. He also took off his face mask, and the leather arm and leg guards that he often wore for fighting. Soon, he was completely naked. He half expected Riiko to jump him, force him to the ground. Instead, he unfolded the purple cloth and draped it over his nude body.
The cloth turned out to be a kimono of sorts. It was a bit old, but big and spacious. Riiko tied it around his middle, keeping it there. The kimono reached about mid-thigh, and the sleeves extended half an arm's length from his fingers. He felt so strange in such a big piece of clothing.
"There. Much more comfortable, right?" He then turned to the left in order to put things away in his box, when he revealed to the neko his right arm. His eyes widened as he stared at it.
That tattoo... The swirl with the three dots surrounding it. It was the exact same mark that Leader had on his arm. What did this mean? What did they share? Why did they share it? Why were they enemies? And how? How?
"So." The neko jumped a bit, staring at Riiko's face. The man stood again, folding his arms across his chest. "You've got to have some kind of name. I can't just call you 'neko' all the time..." He rubbed his chin a bit, thinking to himself. After a moment or so, he pointed to him. "How about... Kyou? That sound good? Kyou?"
He blinked a few times. "K...you..." He frowned in thought. It sounded like a human name. "Kyou." He... sort of liked it. "Kyou," he said for the third time.
Riiko gave a tiny smile. "Kyou it is then." Walking over, he picked up the rest of his fish and handed it back to his little stray.