Dead Don't Dream? OhHo I Beg to Differ!
"Dead don't dream."
The words crashed down like a flash flood over the dirty boy and his usually abundant curiosity sparked to hear it echoing behind him down the cliff face. He had an almost an uncontrollable urge to listen to it rebound down into the chasm to be absorbed by the rushing river below, to turn and give it his attentive grey eyes.
Curiosity killed the cat; he'd heard from plenty of different people. Today was the perfect example. Don't look, you're smarter than that baka, he told himself as he cradled the decent sized hunk of bread behind his back, even if he'd grown so thin it was meager cover at best.
The very angry, very large man threatening Curiosity for her place as his executioner only stepped closer. He'd tried the tactic only a handful of times on people living in small villages, dozens of times before while on the fringes of part of Northern Rukongai.
Plenty of the ignorant farmers had looked at him with awe as he spoke their names without meeting them and explained a dream he'd had about them that had told him everything about them.
The angry man hadn't even let him get to the part where he told his dream. Obviously the large man was neither kind nor in the mind of sharing his food as the dream he usually falsely depicted. The guy didn't seem to know prophets had dreams, even when they were dead, the farmers had. It had been how they had first thought up the idea to cheat people out of food they didn't need nearly as much as they did the rarity of dreams. He knew he wasn't a prophet but he had always been gifted with dreams while it seemed the majority of the Soul Society weren't.
"Maybe you don't," He replied cheekily as the cliff grabbed his voice and threw the words back and forth. He only used the scam to get food, and it wasn't ever really dreams, but what made up his target's very existence that told him what their names were and that was usually enough personal information to fool the farmers. He paused to listen and grinned despite himself as he calculated how far down the water was.
"Dead don't dream," He repeated as he closed in on the punk that stole the snack he'd stolen fair and square. "Dead can die though, did ja know that?"
"That hardly seems fair," He wondered how deep the water was here; too bad he hadn't thought about an escape route. He'd be lucky if Tessai was still on his trail. "You don't need this," He murmured about the bread he'd stolen.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" He lurched forward and the blond boy leapt back, his bare toes grabbing the edge of the cliff. "Ain't nothin' but rocks and falls below ya. Might be more merciful," He reached for the boy and as he dodged his grip the boy lost his balance and threw his arms out to catch it. The bread that would have fed him and Tessai flying down into the deathtrap below.
"My friend needs food and you look nothing like him," He said truthfully. The man probably wouldn't understand how he was talking about the inside not the outside. "He is bigger than me; you do have that in common...big meaty fists too..."
Both of them looked up as an unfamiliar voice crackled with authority, "Fifth seat shouldn't you be slumming in a Seireitei bar? Yet where do I find you?"
The man turned to find there was no one behind him and turned back before the boy could try and run. Sadly instead taking advantage of the opportunity and running he had been frozen, his eyes searching for the young man that belonged to the voice of his rescuer.
"Damn you're slow kid," The voice come again and although the bully had turned his attention back to him, the boy's eyes finally connected with those words, not on a man but the large yellow eyes of a small black kitten. In a flash the cat was curling between the supposed fifth seat's legs before he could react sending him on his ass.
The boy shook his dirty blond head, the tiny creature had moved so fast he almost couldn't track him. His eyes missed the first few feet of the shunpo but tracked it like he tracked Tessai-the pressure of whatever made the kitten more. The cat looked like Tessai...The way the large man didn't. The quickness of the cat's attack proved it was even more than his friend.
In a split second the tiny kitten had created another opening for him to escape, effortlessly. He was stuttering at the cat as it paused at his feet, "W-who are you?"
Just as fast as the kitten had moved, the fallen fifth seat was back on his feet and reaching for the scruff of its neck. The startled boy was surprise to see a flash of the eerie glow; the same that he found in Tessai, an energy that was so rich inside his friend that it spilled out of the skin invisibly to everyone else. There'd been absolutely no hint of it before the cat had arrived and knocked the shinigami down. If it could be hidden so well from his strange heightened sight, it wasn't in the blood as he had always suspected.
He was able to catch a glimpse of the cat disappearing, only to land on the fifth seat's back before the bastard's momentum sent him into the boy, pushing him over the cliff. He had a few moments to curse his curiosity before he felt a prickling pressure rush into fill the air around him.
"Tessai-san," He grinned and dropped slowly to the largest rock in the rushing water. Across on a taller but smaller rock sat his best friend Tessai his face in a grimace of concentration until the pressure left him, then it relaxed. "Kick ass!"
A smirk of satisfaction crossed the older boy's face as he opened one eye to look. "Aw, you dropped the bread Kisuke-kun!"
"I know, I did the math without knowing you were down here," Kisuke held his hand out for help across the rushing water.
Tessai looked as if even that was too much activity, he still hadn't stood. He glared at Kisuke. "I did that hoping you'd pull something off."
Kisuke took a small step back and jumped almost effortlessly to the cramped rock. "Can you get up?"
"Sure," Tessai eyed the small space on the rock they perched on. "Could you get off the rock first?"
Gazing around a moment Kisuke sensed the path Tessai had unintentionally left behind on the stones, even in the air over the water between the stones. He jumped to a stone that had looked suicidally small but it was easy to balance on and he turned and stepped backwards onto the small shelf of rough rock that served as a shore only about a foot and a half wide and only temporary harbor as it was sandwiched between the rushing water and cliff face. He turned back and winked at his friend as he scrambled nimbly across the rocks.
"Show off," Tessai muttered and couldn't help but grin at his friend. He pointed to another string of stones further upstream meandering back across to the opposite shore that was sandy with a less severe incline upward. "That's the way up."
"The bread will have gone downstream," Kisuke stuck his tongue out displeased and for more than one reason. I'll lose the chance to catch sight of that strange cat! "Can you make it up?" He asked concerned as he saw the slope of the bank he indicated.
"I can still walk, I'm not starving yet," Tessai snapped and Kisuke knew he was indeed hungry, he never snapped at the younger boy.
"Have you seen any talking cats?" Kisuke blurted out, as was his fashion. Tessai was used to odd statements and questions, finding most unanswerable despite being a few years older with several more decades of growing up in Rukongai.
The scrappy kid had shown up, swimming out of the lake on the outskirts of the city. Tessai had been trying to catch fish when he'd broken the surface and looked around confused and—as was normal he later found—bright with curiosity. The first question was easy but hard to explain to one so young, "Where am I?"
Kisuke seemed to know exactly where to step quickly even without having risked the journey, concentrating on making it from stone-to-stone Tessai answered, "No talking cats. How are you doing that so fast?"
"You left that stuff all over the place," Kisuke shook his head dislodging his hair to cover his eyes. "Don't even need to look!"
Tessai didn't mention the rock right beneath his descending foot, the spindly youth could be agile when he focused.
Too bad he couldn't focus for long.
With a laugh Tessai hurried after as Kisuke landed on the bank firmly on his ass. "What was that about looking?"
"Aw Tessai-san you're the only friend I know that would laugh at my misfortune," Kisuke hung his head to hide his growing smirk.
"I'm your only friend."
Kisuke watched the larger boy jump to the bank and past him to an upward slope. "Ah you're so harsh!" He scrambled to his feet and hurried after.
They looked over to see the fifth seat was gone, as was the cat. Kisuke frowned especially when he couldn't see where the cat had gone as he would have with Tessai. The two both had the ability to hide what his large friend left like glowy footprints.
I was sure that bully had no unusual energy in his body, Kisuke walked with Tessai along the cliff. As they moved the land leveled out, becoming even with the water.
Dark eyes moving over the current Tessai felt the tremble in his leg muscles. He hadn't gotten much to eat and he found it much harder to do anything. Although he found himself capable of doing things the others around him could not, he found it a hindrance in some ways, one being crippled by hunger.
"Do you think we should keep going? Get outta this district?" Kisuke mused to the dark-haired boy as he let his path splash into the river. "That's no rock!"
He sighed at Kisuke's enthusiastic shout; it would probably be a petrified log. With Kisuke it could be anything. Like a talking cat, Tessai snickered to himself as he thought about the kid's earlier question.
It turned out to be a partially sodden hunk of bread and Kisuke held it aloft triumphantly, dumping the remaining water down on his head unexpectedly. As he sputtered and coughed Tessai laughed and took the food.
"Edible," Tessai gave him a pleased smile which the younger boy returned as a beaming grin of satisfaction at a job well done, pulled from the dredges of catastrophe. "Good job Kisuke-kun, how much do you want?"
Kisuke tried to cover his sudden frown by sinking his fingers into the soggy side of the bread. His curiosity blazing he took a small chunk and nibbled by himself at the water's edge. He'd have given up the bread to see that kitten again, but Tessai…
Pleased with the amount left for him Tessai caught the life-force of something small…His eyes darted to catch the black kitten in mid-movement as it dashed to hide in the leaves of a nearby bush. Kisuke-kun's talking cat?
The thin boy brushed his dirty hair aside with water in his fingers. He didn't have what Tessai had, the energy that always soaked his large friend from toe to crown. Up until today Kisuke had thought the blood was mostly responsible since his strange second type of sight was always tinged a gory crimson unless he focused to see it as the flow of bluish light instead.
The only thing he had was this ability and a tiny appetite incomparable to Tessai's demands. He was kind of glad, but painfully curious and jealous of the older boy's power.
They both couldn't eat their fill if they had Tessai's stomach. Already he'd inhaled even the moist bread before Kisuke finished his few bites.
"A black kitten tried to save my life…" Kisuke turned to catch Tessai's startled gaze, even as desensitized as he was to the boy's bizarre out of the blue exclamations. As Kisuke turned he was sharp enough to notice the direction of his friend's gaze before gaining his attention with his voice.
Back up the slope they'd traveled was a collection of bushes and a scraggly tree that Kisuke examined quickly before meeting his friend's eyes. There were no berries on any of the plants and no nests in the tree for eggs. Maybe he was looking for the angry former own of the bread? Plausible.
Tessai put his two most recent strange remarks together, "Did it talk?"
"Yes," Kisuke glanced over toward the collection of shrubs again. "Is that normal here?"
"Dead cat's a dead cat, Kisuke-kun," Tessai shrugged and crawled over to drown his face in the cold clear stream gulping greedily. His stomach had gone quiet and he filled the rest up with water as Kisuke finished his portion.
"What I meant was did you meet any talking cats before you came here?"
Frowning Kisuke scratched the back of his head, "I guess not."
They were quiet for a few companionable minutes soaking up the sun and letting the flowing water sounds relax them. Both boys knew they needed to put space between this small village and themselves, maybe find an outlying farm and try again. Tessai was positive they'd get better results where the folk were more superstitious, less jaded. There was no hurry for food, but that large man might be looking for them, and finding them would be bad for them both.
"Wanna walk along the stream?" Tessai murmured into the comfortable silence, they had no real destination so there was no reason to pick one direction over another. The stream's meandering path was as good as any, and it would prove useful when they stopped to rest later.
"I suppose," Kisuke murmured, procrastinating as he thought of sneaking back to where he'd fallen off the cliff to get a closer look. He might have not been close enough to see any clues about the others that had been up there with him. He heard Tessai stand beside him and pretended to be too absorbed in the pattern of clouds in the sky to notice his friend's movement.
"We should go before that villager comes looking for us."
"And how would you know oh wise Kisuke-dono?" Tessai teased.
"The cat called him a fifth seat," Kisuke revealed. "And asked him why he wasn't in the Seireitei."
At that word Tessai's eyes widened and his head swiveled to look over his shoulder. They were pretty far away but the huge walls were still visible.
The two of them had ventured close enough to touch it once a few years after Kisuke had come, the boy's curiosity for an entire city that he would never see. It had made him go though agony his wonder so intense to see exactly what was on the other side of those walls. Tessai's answer of, "The rich and powerful souls," wasn't enough for the inquisitive Kisuke.
"Kisuke-kun!" Tessai looked back to meet the boy's deep green eyes always rich with wonder even when solemn. "He could have killed you!"
Kisuke waved his hand at him as if his words were silly, "He had a glow like yours, but he hid it."
"From you?" Tessai looked back toward the Seireitei instead of initiating the beginning of their trek away from its shining walls and the more populated districts of Western Rukongai. He didn't entirely understand the boy's power to see the difference between most souls and himself, it had been a pleasant surprise to not be shunned by someone because of his odd energy and abilities.
"So did the cat."
Tessai's eyes swung around and confirmed the niggling hypothesis in the back of Kisuke's mind as he spoke by glancing back at the bushes and trees he'd been so interested in before. "It did?" Tessai gasped in surprise especially when Kisuke gave a triumphant shout and bounded over toward the trees where the cat hid.
The small collection of birds that hadn't even been aware of the kitten's presence went scattering into the wind as the slight boy landed in the prickly shrubs to flush out the cat. Take by surprise just as much as the birds the cat shot out of the leaves and straight into a still surprised Tessai's arms. "Don't let it get away Tessai-san!"
Tightening his strong arms around the wriggling furry mass of claws Tessai closed his eyes and held his face away from the slashing natural weapons. The most unexpected thing—in a normal situation—was when the cat began to let loose a filthy string of curses.
"I told you!" Kisuke crowed madly and he laughed as he moved in to help Tessai. With a startled gasp he shielded his eyes as the glow of the kitten hit an intensity Tessai could only achieve with long concentration.
The sudden flash took him unawares and he could have sworn he heard the stray laugh. When he glanced up he had to squint to watch the cat as he whomped Tessai in the chest with his back legs successfully launching himself forward and out of the boy's clutches and also sending his captor flying back several feet.
Kisuke dove for the cat as it laughed again and like he had escaped the fifth seat's clutches the creature disappeared in a flash and reappeared a few feet further away. Kisuke had thought the animal had done this vanishing/reappearing trick earlier but he had also thought his mind was playing tricks on him, after hearing the kitten talk. Seeing the trick again made his curiosity burn even more, it was obvious that he should take chase if he was going to figure the animal out.
Ignoring Tessai's cautioning shout like always Kisuke shot after the feline as it made a beeline for the shining walls of the Seireitei.
Even if the animal was faster, Kisuke easily tracked the traces he left behind using his strange traveling skill. It seemed as if he couldn't use the skill and hide his glow completely at the same time
As long as he kept the cat in sight the creature continued to jump across the ground, flashing in and out of sight leaving glowing footprints behind that Kisuke could follow. If the beast could go even the smallest bit faster Kisuke knew he would fall too far behind to keep his eyes on it giving the cat the opportunity to hide and cease to leave behind a trail leading straight to feline.
So focused was the boy on the quick tail of the fleeing cat he didn't notice the change in the buildings he dodged through. Or the people, whose clothes ceased to be as ragged and dirty as Kisuke's.
Naturally making him more noticeable.
He raced over a small arching bridge, vaulted the gate securely locked at the end after watching enviously as the cat merely disappeared and reappeared on the other side of the canal effortlessly. Kisuke almost brained himself as his focus caused him to miss the oncoming of a mammoth wall.
"Hey!" Kisuke shouted after throwing his arms out, his palms slapping into the whitewashed wall that took up his entire field of view. Pushing himself back as he glanced left then right along what had to be a twenty-foot wall. "How'd you manage that Koneko-kun?"
With a spike of excitement the boy saw, at the base of the wall, a small drainage pipe only a kitten could squirm through. He noticed a break further down in the wall and dashed over, only to find a small gate with two guards.
The guards were dressed in almost all black, but had haori of a deep maroon with a family crest on the backs. He first took notice of them as they suddenly appeared on either side of him, and nearly an instant after the scraggly boy's arms were captured.
"Hey, he's gone inside!" He shouted suddenly and used his malnourished frame to his advantage; no one ever guessed he was nearly eleven, or that he was a genius. His eyes left the inconsequential guards after seeing everything about their persons; their weapons, the special second sight that he had just barely begun to use in such a fashion (moments ago on the cliff) telling him they were probably master swordsmen but they had no special power glowing in them.
Kisuke's eyes darted around the inner courtyard that ran along the inside of what turned out to be a rather large palace. The cat was nowhere in sight, but he was positive the cat would have had to have left a small trail after leaving the drainage pipe even if it only gave him a general direction-
The air rushed out of him as he was deposited roughly on the other side of the bridge of what the boy realized was a moat.
Like a castle?
"Nice try kid," one of the masked guards laughed and they started to turn away so they could return to the gate.
"But Koneko-kun!" Kisuke shouted, trying to make his voice tremble as if he were being separated from a dear family member. The guards only laughed and he got his first good look at the family crest on the back of their coats. "Shihōin..." He murmured, his eyes skimming over the distance he was standing from the wall surrounding the palace, up to the tiled roof that he could see from his vantage. He tried not to be awed as he roughly calculated the height of the surrounding wall of the grand house of the Shihōin noble family.
Tessai had given him a few nights of question and answer about, "the rich and powerful souls," that lived in the Seireitei in an attempt to curtail his desire to break into the most fortified part of Soul Society. The actual conversation had been much longer with the noble names only taking up two nights. Tessai hadn't known he himself had known so much until Kisuke had pulled it from him.
"Kisuke-kun!" Tessai's voice suddenly shouted, from a fair distance away and the boy looked around him to see that he had managed to get himself into the walls of the Seireitei.
"Ikkene..." Kisuke grunted as he expected black-clad guardians to descend on him and escort him just as forcefully out of the shining walls as the Shihōin guards had just ejected him rudely interrupting his pursuit...He quickly moved toward the wall, hoping there would be an obvious exit as he neared it and saw that there was another moat surrounding the inside of this part of the Seireitei nearly twice as wide as the one he'd been tossed across.
Rubbing the rib he'd landed on at the end of said toss in remembrance he hurried across the nearest arching bridge. Tessai's form came into sight at a large open gate where there were farm wagons being escorted through by...
Kisuke froze literally feet away from the exit as he saw them for the first time, if his odd daydreams about them counted. They-well most of them-glowed like Tessai and the cat. Kisuke stared in awe as he watched them pass him by, catching a glance from a few of them. He could feel the frown curve his lips as they appraised him and ignored him as they found him somehow lacking. He was very obviously not part of the splendor inside the walls of the Seireitei neither buildings nor humans.
Shaking off the moment of worthlessness that seized him as he remembered his older friend waiting stuck outside, still breathing hard after running after the two of them. "I was wrong," Kisuke gave his head a vigorous shake and dislodged some of the hair into his eyes as he slapped a brilliant smile on his face, shoved out a guffaw and ran toward his friend. "Koneko-kun isn't a stray at all!"