"Care to come with me to town today?"
Kyou blinked, half way through his dinner. Things had begun to return to normal after their sword lessons together. Things were still a bit awkward at times, but at least Kyou was confident enough to speak again. He watched as Riiko cleaned his sword, as was his usual nightly routine. Kyou had grown to love sword training with Riiko, even though he was not very good at it. He got frustrated easily, and if he couldn't get something down right, he would sometimes just throw the thing to the side and pout. But Riiko had been teaching him patience as well. The neko was slowly starting to learn it. After the question, Kyou swallowed his food and turned to the man.
"Town?" he repeated. "Why?"
"Just thought it might be nice for you to go somewhere other then the stream," said Riiko with a shrug. Of course, he also didn't want to leave Kyou alone after what happened. The thought of that happening twice was beyond Riiko. Besides, he knew how antsy the neko could get if he didn't have something to keep him occupied. Why, he theorized, Kyou had taken to sword practice so much.
Kyou seemed to think it over, letting his skewered fish twirl in his hands. "Hm." His tail curled around his ankles as he did so, his ear flickering now and again. He had been to human towns before. Once when he was a kit, which he barely remembered except for when he was being placed into chains to be sold. Another time when he was allowed to go on a ransacking trip with the rest of the Shadows. He supposed going a third time, and going with Riiko... it should be interesting. Kyou looked over to Riiko and nodded. "Ok," he said, going back to his fish.
This satisfied Riiko, causing him to smile. They didn't say anything for the rest of the night. When morning came, Riiko roused Kyou early (as he had been sleeping in of late), and they packed to go. Riiko put together a bit of his money, as well as a few furs to trade with. Once everything was said and done, they headed away from their hut and headed east. Riiko explained that they'd be going to the village of Sayuri. Kyou had heard of it in passing, but had never gone there, or taken the time to learn more about it. He supposed that it was more out of curiosity then anything that he was continuing on with Riiko.
The trip lasted most of the morning, the two of them stopping only to eat, before continuing on. Kyou had been charged with carrying the furs, which he didn't mind. Riiko seemed to be a skilled tanner; not a single one smelled like a dead animal. No small feat, considering Kyou's sense of smell. As for Riiko, he kept his bag of money tightly on his belt, laying just beside his katana. He wondered if Riiko would have to use it that day. Kyou would like to see Riiko in action. He was sure the human would be magnificent. Despite these strange thoughts floating through Kyou's head, the neko didn't mind thinking them. He had no guilt silently complementing the human now. Because he no longer had loyalties to fulfill, what was the point of upholding such honor? So, he followed, allowing himself to think whatever thoughts came upon him.
Finally, they arrived at the Sayruri village. It was a bustling place, with street venders and shop keepers that were frequent everywhere. The whole village seemed to be made of a marketplace. Everything from spices to meat to silk to nekos were being bartered and traded for gold or other goods. Some shop keepers had tents which they sold merchandise out of. The smell of roasting food was enough to make Kyou salivate, even though he had just eaten. His eyes went from place to place so rapidly that he almost lost Riiko a couple of times. He quickly caught up to him those times he fell behind, though. Riiko went to a fur tradesman and got a decent price for his pelts. He probably got such a good payment because the merchant seemed to be terrified of him. He smiled and spoke, but Kyou could tell by his trembling voice that he feared Riiko. A bud of respect that had always been present began to blossom in Kyou's chest. Even when Bonkotsu intimidated people, he had to glare, yell or flash his blade. But with Riiko, all the man needed to do to make the man cower was smile and ask how much he wanted for his furs.
Soon, he and Riiko found themselves outside of a tea house. Boldly, Riiko walked in, motioning Kyou to follow. Inside were completely different smells. Rice dough, for one. It had been his diet as a kit. The smell of frying dumplings also tempted him, making his tail swish back and forth. Noticing this, Riiko smiled at him. "You want some dumplings?" he asked, noting how intently Kyou was staring at a plate of them from across the way. The neko looked up before nodding, his hands behind his back. Patting his head, Riiko turned and lead them through the crowded facility to get to a place to sit.
For indeed, the tea house was very packed. There was a counter of sorts near the back, where a hostess took orders and spoke to the cook in the back room behind her. Customers were scattered about the place, laughing and drinking together. Some of them looked musty and hard working. Others carried about them the air of noblemen. As they got a table, Riiko explained that Sayuri was the trade capitol of the countryside. Men from all over came to meet and trade here. Kyou could tell at least that much. The range of dialects within the tea house was amazing. It caused his ears to flicker, though his eyes didn't leave Riiko. After explaining Sayrui, Riiko placed their oder and waited. He sat properly, with his legs tucked beneath him. Kyou just sat with his legs crossed, the ends of his purple kimono resting within his lap.
"A good deal of jobs come from here," said Riiko simply.
"Men want other men dead," said Kyou clarified.
Riiko paused before nodding. "Yes," he said finally. He looked up as their food came. Kyou's eyes widened at the little round dumplings set before him. The smell was amazing. He looked to Riiko, who picked up a skewer and began to eat his share. Licking his lips, Kyou took his own and began to eat. Riiko smiled at the adorable expression on his face as he did so. He smiled brightly, licking and nibbling at the dumplings. He seemed to be a lot more polite in his eating habits now. Probably because he wasn't starved half the time. As Kyou ate, Riiko poured the tea for both of them. "This is hot," he warned. "So be careful, ok?" Kyou nodded, still eating. The dumplings were heaven to Kyou. Ten times better then the constant diet of plain rice dough, for certain. He looked at his tea cup and sipped at it, the hotness of the beverage making his tongue curl in slightly. However, he was careful to drink it as Riiko warned. Everything was going well, until a couple of drunkards wondered aimlessly into the tea house.
Kyou could smell the alcohol on their breath immediately, and put his fingers to his nose. There were three of them, speaking loudly to one another. They laughed and crooned, causing many of the tea house customers to be disturbed. One of them wobbled their way up to the counter and leaned against it, grinning stupidly at the hostess. The girl, who couldn't have been any older then Kyou herself, looked a bit frightened. He began to speak to her in a sloppy fashion, saying crude and sexual things to her, in a voice that carried throughout the tea house. The girl tried to ask them to leave, but the men only laughed in her face. The cook came out to yell at them, but that didn't deter them either. Kyou frowned at this display. He felt the urge to run up and give them a good scratch or two. Before he could do anything, however, he heard Riiko's voice loud and clear.
"Do you mind, gentlemen? You're ruining my day."
Kyou turned to Riiko as the rest of the tea house seemed to quiet. Even the drunkards calmed themselves enough to stare. Slowly, Riiko stood. A few who recognized him moved away, whispering to their friends just who this man was. Riiko walked up to the three men without hesitation, his green eyes obviously unamused. "This lady has asked you to leave," he stated simply. "I suggest you do so."
The men, clearly not knowing who it was who spoke to them, burst out into laughter. The bolder of the three stepped forward, his yellow teeth bared in an idiotic grin. "And what are you gonna do?" he breathed, red eyes untamed. Riiko didn't bat an eyelash.
"If you don't leave, I'll have no choice but to force you." That caused another bout of laughter from the men. Kyou was a bit taken aback by how calmly Riiko was taking this. If it were Bonkotsu standing there, the men would have either been dead or dismembered by now. In fact, the more they laughed, the angrier Kyou became. He stood, marching up to Riiko's side, his ears straight down against his head. He growled at the buffoons.
"Don't laugh!" he snapped. "Riiko is better man then you! Idiot!" His tail shot straight up as he yelled, feeling tingles run up and down his spine. While the morons laughed louder, Riiko felt a bit of surprise enter his face and he looked to Kyou. He was flattered at the neko sticking up for him, even if he really didn't need it. He turned back to the men, putting his hand on Kyou's shoulder.
"I will ask you again," he said simply. "Please leave. You're disturbing the rest of us who are trying to enjoy ourselves."
Again, the leader of the three snorted a laugh. He leaned against the bar, his face dangerously close to Riiko's. "Make us," he slurred. After a split second, Riiko moved his hand to his belt, yanking his blade out of its sheath. It made a "twang" sound as it rang against the air. The katana came a hair's length away from the man's nose. In an instant, his eyes widened, and he backed up, practically falling against the other two. After staring at the threatening weapon, the three scurried out of the tea house without so much as putting up a fight. This time, it was the guests' turn to laugh. Riiko pricked his finger with the tip of his sword and slid it back into its holder. He turned to Kyou, smiling gently at him. He opened his mouth to thank the neko, but was interrupted promptly.
"Why you not kill them?" He demanded. Riiko frowned, but said nothing. "They insult you! They laugh! Why you not kill them?!"
A sigh escaped the man. Gently, he laid both hands on Kyou's shoulders, looking at him firmly. "Kyou, listen to me. Not all men deserve to die. Just because they laughed at me doesn't mean they should die for it."
Kyou didn't understand. For Bonkotsu, merely mentioning something bad about him was a death sentence. And yet, Riiko was as cool as ever. Why did this man never loose his temper!? But then... he had. Not too long ago. Kyou's own anger began to subside as he remembered. That morning... after Riiko had returned home. He looked so angry, threw such a fit... Kyou felt himself shutter at the memory. That was truly scary. He felt a hand atop his head and looked up. Riiko was smiling at him.
Riiko was sure Kyou would understand in time. The poor boy... It was safe to say that Kyou had never been shown true kindness in his life. Riiko theorized that the only nice things that have ever been done to him had ulterior motives. He let his fingers lace through the neko's dark ashen hair. I will show you what it's like to be cared for, he promised in his mind. You'll see... Leaning down, he kissed his crown. Kyou felt heat spring to his cheeks as those lips touched his hairline. Feeling his heart patter in a fashion that was now familiar to him though still frightening Kyou tore away. He put a hand to his chest, the fur at the base of his tail on end.
"R...Riiko is strange..." he muttered, pouting up at him. That only caused the man to laugh, ruffling the hair between his ears even more.
"Is there something wrong with that?" he asked lightly. Kyou ducked away from his hand, ears flattening as he pushed out his lower lip.
"Yes," he snapped, his tail swishing back and forth.
Riiko merely shook his head, hands on his hips. "Well," he said, keeping his smile. "It's time that we go. Come on. If we're lucky, we'll make home by nightfall." With that, he turned, heading back the way they came. Kyou watched him for a moment before letting the smallest of smiles hit his lips. Strange... yes... Riiko was strange.
But that was what made Riiko Riiko.
Kyou began to follow him, until he felt something grab his tail. Rather harshly in fact. He cried out as it was tugged, causing him to fall on his rump. In a puddle of mud, no less. Looking up as he nursed his tail, Kyou spotted three men above him. It was the group of drunks from the tea house. They grinned stupidly at the neko.
"Oy, kitten," they seethed. "You a pleasure pet or something?"
"Heh... I bet he gets slammed every night~!"
As they continued to degrade him, Kyou felt rage build up in his chest. He hopped to his feet, flashing his teeth and claws. He tried lunging for the men, but accidentally slipped on the mud, landing face first in it instead. The men roared at that, pushing his shoulders with their heels. Growling, Kyou bolted upright and took a mighty swing, slashing one of the men across the chest. He yelled, stumbling backwards. The other two gasped before glaring at the neko. One of them tried to grab him, but Kyou knocked his hand away, teeth bared. Meanwhile, the other took out a scalping knife. No doubt these men were tanners.
"I'll teach you to attack free men you !" He was about to cut Kyou in half, but stopped when a hand grabbed his wrist. He blinked and turned around, seeing Riiko behind him. He didn't seem amused. The man tried wrenching his hand free, but it was no use. Riiko's grip remained firm. The other, after getting over himself, launched at Riiko, attempting to tackle him. But Riiko quickly pulled the other man in front, causing them both to collide. Behind him, the one that Kyou attacked jumped onto Riiko's back. But the assassin quickly ducked down, knocking him flat on his back. Taking a small jump backwards, Riiko took out his katana, though he didn't unsheathe it. He let it dance in the air before lurching forward. Kyou watched in awe as Riiko danced about, his sword as his partner.
He hit the men in all sorts of places, looking even more graceful then when he was practicing. He danced and swayed, his arms diving about easily between the three slops he was fighting. In fact, now that he was moving about side by side with the drunkards, Riiko's grace seemed to grow by the second. Finally, all three of them were face down in the mud, covered with scrapes and bruises. Riiko dusted off his covered katana before putting it back into his belt. He turned his eyes up to Kyou and observed the mud that the neko was now covered with. Stepping over one of the men as they twitched, Riiko took Kyou's hand.
"Come on," he said. "Let's get you cleaned up. Ok?" He flashed a little smile. Kyou looked down at his own soiled kimono and nodded, bashfully following the man. Behind him, he could still hear the groans of those men, and he felt a certain pride bloom within him. He had dispatched those men without so much as taking his sword from its holder. Kyou turned up to Riiko, watching him as they walked. He had kept so cool, even now. In fact, he didn't even break a sweat. Between them, Kyou squeezed Riiko's hand, turning his eyes back to the path they walked.