"Without your love... I am lying in... my bed... listening to... bamboo leaves rustle... What is name again?"
"Poetry. You just recited a poem."
Not counting the gentle crackle of fire and the faint chirping of crickets, Riiko and Kyou's voices were the only noise that night. It had been two months since the two first stumbled upon one another. Though neither of them seemed to be keeping track. For Kyou, the entire experienced had become some sort of long dream. Any day, he felt as though he was going to wake up and realize that the entire time had been nothing more then a fantasy. But, determining that it was indeed real after a while, Kyou began to keep his guard up even more so. At least when he was aware. Sometimes, he would find himself being honest and vulnerable with Riiko. That thought alone frightened him. So if he could help it, Kyou remained as solitary as he could.
As for Riiko, the man had become used to a hermit's life for the most part. Ever since he left home, he was prepared to live on his own. So their long moments of silence did not bother him. If he asked a question, he knew there was only a slight chance he would get an actual answer, but he always waited for one. Having not lived with anyone since he was a young teen, Riiko found that a roommate (albeit a silent one) was something that he had been missing from time to time. And for Riiko's needs, Kyou was perfect. He didn't try to distract him when he was hunting or fishing. He never bothered him when he was trying to sleep. Nor did he ever pester him about what he did for a living. For the most part, they left one another alone. That was something that both of them could appreciate.
Kyou himself had to admit, he was glad for the space he was given. It allowed him the time he needed to think things through. He laid himself on his stomach, staring at Riiko from above. He often liked to rest on the roof of the hut, usually while Riiko was inside or by the fire. Currently, it was the latter. He sat himself next to the pit, slowly polishing his sword. It was a long, elegant blade. The kind of weapon that he hadn't even seen Leader use. He preferred much shorter blades. They were easier to hide. He supposed that's a difference that set the two apart. That and the fact that Riiko was generally a calm person.
Where Bonkotsu would yell or scream or constantly order people around, Riiko throw no such tantrums. In the two months that they lived together, Kyou didn't hear Riiko raise his voice once. There were times when Kyou would pick a fight with him, or try to steal his food. Riiko never reciprocated. But the greatest thing about his new human was that he allowed Kyou to talk.
Riiko knew that nekos usually weren't allowed to do such a thing, at least not on a regular basis. And especially not in the Shadow Thieves. This is the reason why he purposefully went out of his way in order to teach Kyou words. Steering towards the later part of their two months together, Riiko would take an hour or two out of his day to show Kyou a word. He would draw it in the dirt, helping him sound it out. He answered any question Kyou gave, and encouraged him to speak when he wanted something. This was something that Kyou secretly enjoyed. But he would never admit it out loud.
He fiddled with the ends of his big kimono as he watched Riiko. He had come to grow used to its big, comfortable body around his own. Even more so then his garb that he wore as a Shadow Thief. Kyou nibbled at his pinky nail, watching as Riiko turned his face up to the sky.
"The stars are bright tonight," he remarked, finally putting his polishing cloth away. Kyou looked up as well, noticing that the tiny orbs of light were indeed strong this evening.
"Mm." Kyou tapped his cheek with his claw nail, turning his gaze back to Riiko. He had begun to notice something odd about this man. Whenever night rolled around, Riiko would always stop and stare at the sky. He had some sort of fascination with the stars. A fascination that Kyou could not quite comprehend. But every single time, he would smile. It was a sad smile, but a smile none the less. He wondered what Riiko would be thinking about. But that wasn't the only thing he wondered.
That tattoo... He had longed to ask Riiko about it, but he stopped himself every single time. He knew that humans all had a breaking point. And though the life proved to be a bit boring, living without constant adventure or conflict, he got full meals, clean clothes, and a comfortable place to sleep every night. Besides, he had no other place to call home. So for the sake of keeping his lodgings, he refrained. But as for his other questions.
Riiko paused before turning up to the neko on his roof. "Hm? What do you mean?"
"Why look," Kyou repeated. He sat himself up on the balls of his feet, teetering a bit now. His ears flickered in interest as he stared down at Riiko. He gestured up with his head. "Just stars. Why look?"
"Oh." Riiko chuckled a bit. He laid his back along the ground, his hands behind his head of snow. Kyou returned to watching him, taking note of how the firelight danced upon Riiko's body. Kyou would admit that he had an attractive physique. He would be perfect for a mate. He wondered why he did not have one. Riiko stared at the heavens, a gentle smile on his lips. "It's just something I always used to do when I was younger. That's all."
Of course, that was only half of the reason. Whenever he would look up at the stars in the past... he always had someone beside him. Someone who loved him. He moved his hand from behind his head to the space beside him. Almost as though he was getting ready to hold someone to his chest. His eyes closing, he could imagine him laying to his side as always. Smiling or nestling into his skin. His tiny body was always so light in his arms. His voice always so hopeful and pleasant. His smell... Riiko could still recall it, clear as day. He always smelled of honey and chestnuts. Whenever Riiko had come home wounded, or had a bad day in town, he would always be there to comfort him. And every night they were together, from the time that they were children, they would cuddle down, and look up to the stars.
"Look, look! Riiko! A shooting star... Make a wish, Riiko..."
His heart dropped a bit as his memories washed around his head. Riiko's fingers lightly trailed the dried leaves and sticks beside him as he thought to himself. It wasn't until a pair of feet were right beside his head did he look up. Kyou had hopped from the rooftop and joined him by the fire. Riiko propped himself up with his hands, staring at the dancing, orange flames. "It's getting late," he remarked. "We should probably..." He stopped, however, when he heard faint footsteps coming towards them. Standing quickly, he held his sword with a firm grip, glaring at the darkness past the trees. Kyou stood as well, his ears alert and his claws bared. It had been a while since there had been any form of action in his life. He was aching to get into some kind of physicality. Finally, the owner of the footsteps revealed himself.
He was a sweaty, fat man, with beady eyes and a red face. His black hair was cropped short on his rounded head, his ears sticking out at dramatic angles. He had on farmer's garb, his hands calloused and his skin with a great deal of dirt on the surface. Seeing the glint of Riiko's sword, the man stopped in his tracks and shook with fear.
"P-please!" he pleaded, showing him something in his meaty hands. As they trembled, he revealed a sack plump with gold. This caught Riiko's attention. After a moment, he stood back, pricking his finger before putting away his blade. The man sighed with relief and approached the fire. Before he got too close, Kyou scuttled up to the roof top, settling there like a looming gargoyle. Riiko pulled up a couple of stumps and offered the man a seat.
"Would you like some tea?" he asked, heading into the house.
"O-oh... no thank you." He watched as Riiko vanished into the hobble and reappeared with a warped, metal tea-pot. Riiko set the kettle on the fire anyway, just in case. He sat himself on his own stump, his arms resting across his breast. "I... I assume you are the infamous Riiko? The man who wields the world's fastest blade?"
Riiko lifted a faint brow in interest. "They call me such things?"
"Y-yes... They say you can kill anyone. Anyone who is so foolish as to cross your path."
Riiko, his katana once more tied to his belt, let his hand fall and rest on the handle of the weapon. "How I wish that were so..." He trailed off before taking the conversation back to the main point. "Have you a commission for me?"
"Y-yes," said the man. He fiddled with his thick fingers, watching as the kettle grew hotter and soon whistled. With calm hands, Riiko poured himself a cup. After blowing on it, he took a sip. His eyes shot up.
"Oh!" The man suddenly remembered that he hadn't told him about his commission. "Right... well... There's a man that keeps coming to my village. A rough man, a bit bigger then yourself. He calls himself 'Hiyate'. He has a nasty sword in his possession, sir. He's slaughtered at least a few hands of live stock and two nekos in the past month."
Riiko listened politely, sipping some more tea. He hadn't had a job in at least three months. It would be good to get paid again. He held out his hand. The man stared at it for a moment before realizing that he wanted the money. Quickly, he gave it to him. Riiko set his tea cup down and opened the sack. About thirty coins glittered within the fire light. He synched it up tightly and set it aside.
"I'll leave in the morning. What town did you say you hailed from?"
"The Izumi villa," said the man simply. "The village just north of Kenshi."
With a nod, Riiko drank the last of his tea and set it aside. "I will leave in the morning."
The farmer seemed relieved. He bowed respectfully, his plump hands pressed together. "Thank you, sir. The people of Izumi will be forever grateful." With that, the man left, leaving the human and the neko to themselves. Riiko pulled up the sack once more, judging its weight. He looked up to Kyou, who remained still on the roof top. After a moment's pause, Riiko stood, taking the kettle and cup with him.
"Good night, Kyou. I must rest for tomorrow." With that, he walked into his home, undressing for the night. "Make sure the fire does not burn all night." Curiously, Kyou slipped from the roof and onto the ground, his tail flickering back and forth behind him. He watched as Riiko tossed his clothes aside and laid upon his bed. It was too warm for blankets. Riiko put his hands behind his head, laying silently before he looked up. "Is there something the matter?" he asked.
Kyou felt an ear twitch slightly before looking over to the sack of gold. "Why he pay you?" he asked. Most of the money the Shadow Thieves earned was from force.
"He gave me work," said Riiko simply. He let his eyes close. "He wants a man dead. You know what that means, right?"
Kyou said nothing. Yes, he knew what it was that man wanted. What an odd transaction. He wondered, what if Leader did things the way this man did? It seemed to be a calm, sensible agreement. The hassle and chaos of much of their encounters could have been avoided very easily with this route, Kyou supposed. He watched Riiko for a moment longer, and when the man refused to stir, the neko headed out to the fire and sat beside it, thinking silently to himself.