Kurohyou Keikan

Knocked Out Without a Single Swing

There were several scents just outside the palace wall Keishu and Boyaku's the most prevalent but the most recent was new to her. She knew it belonged to that accursed boy, and quickly followed her nose out of the Seireitei.

Today she only planned on learning where the boy lived, since he had a size advantage while she was in her cat form. She would either have to figure out how to bring clothes with her while she escaped the palace, or find some before she shifted in Rukongai.

After a few moments of sniffing out the most recent trail the boy and his friend had left behind Yoruichi hoped she would come across some clothes today, while searching the boy out. She let her mind wander a bit as she followed the two boys' paths maybe she would get his attention and get another chase.

Chase? Yoruichi shook her tiny head as she thought over her sudden idea. She was a princess, and although she wandered Rukongai in search for bigger and better things to entertain herself with...She paused as she thought over her motives. She wanted to get into a fight, get back at the boy who had almost revealed her to the guards.

Right?

After walking a few more feet Yoruichi found a fresh scent, not the blond boy but the older one that couldn't keep his spiritual energy contained. She glanced in the direction his scent indicated, away from the Seireitei and the more populated parts of the Rukongai toward the outlaying farms. The boy was alone; her true target's scent hadn't accompanied him at all. She only hesitated a second before continuing on her way following the older scent, and the newer scent of the large boy by himself only varied a little from the scent she was following.

Not far down the trail she found where the boys had parted ways, the blonde's scent moved in the opposite direction, toward the wall of the Seireitei through the trees. She quickly moved through the trees and bushes as the scent grew fresher with every step. She started to shunpo every few steps, making sure she was still going the right direction with a few sniffs as she got closer and closer to the Seireitei.

A strange hiccupping gasp caught her attention as the shining walls came into sight. The path of the boy started to wander left a bit, then right as if he'd realized he was straying from what had been a rather straight path so far. The wind shifted and brought the boy's smell to her nose and she abandoned the footpath to hone in on the source of the odd hitched breathing.

Tucked away against a recently fallen tree shrouded purposefully in branches pulled from the same decaying tree she found the blonde. He was smaller than she remembered, even if most people were taller than her kitten form, probably because he was curled into a ball.

There were very obvious tracks of clean skin showing through the dirt on his face where tears had been rubbed across his cheeks. He looked like he was asleep, his face relaxed but his breath far from calm and deep. As she watched he took in half a breath before his chest hitched and he sobbed softly. Yoruichi wondered just how hard and how long the young boy had been crying.

He can't be much older than me...Yoruichi ventured closer, under the wilting branches he'd dragged over his small space. Was he lost? Separated from the other boy? They had appeared to be friends why would they separate if not on accident?

"Koneko-sama..."

In a shunpo Yoruichi was gone, suddenly a safe distance away from him. Another shunpo took her behind a large tree and then she quickly pulled her spiritual energy in before the unusual senses of the child caught it. She held still where she hid but there was nothing for her to listen to but his sobbing breaths. The words he had murmured finally hit her and she pondered at his motivation.

Eyes locked on the small grotto the boy had made for himself Yoruichi waited a few moments before she realized she was acting very much the coward. She was a princess! A Shihōin! She ventured out of her hiding place and moved across the ground her posture crouched as she stealthily snuck back into the boy's den.

Still asleep...She lowered down to lay on the ground, resting her head on her folded paws to watch his sleeping face.

Not questioning her behavior she pondered instead what the boy might have been crying so hard about. Maybe he was much younger than he looked and he was afraid of being alone. Yoruichi felt empathy for the boy but quickly told herself that she wasn't anything like the brat, she had a friend.

As she thought about Ryūken she realized that she would probably cry herself to sleep if she lost him. We both need more friends...She thought as she felt herself drifting off to sleep but she realized too late to fight it.

###

A rumble in her chest pulled her out the shallow cat nap she'd fallen into and after a moment she realized she was purring. She tilted her head slightly to give scratching fingers access under her chin. Fingers?

There was a soft upward tilt to the boy's lips but otherwise his green eyes were still watery with tears. As their eyes met he gave her a final scratch and then pulled away to curl back into his prior ball. "Welcome back Shihōin-koneko did you sleep well?"

Struck mute Yoruichi could only stare at the boy. How had he figured it out? She had never even met him before yesterday, as either a cat or a human. Her mind moved over the prior day's chase and she recalled the comical sight of Keishu and Boyaku tossing the boy out on his narrow ass. Smart enough to read eh?

Relief flooded the small kitten as she realized that he didn't know her identity, just that she had hidden in the palace of the Shihōin noble family. Maybe he thought she was their pet. Overcome suddenly with mirth a masculine chuckle escaped her muzzle and she saw the upward twitch of the boy's lips in reaction to the soft sound, as if it were infectious.

"Do you dream Shihōin-koneko?" He murmured softly the question surprising the cat. When she didn't answer he gave a morose sigh and the faint smile on his lips faded moments before he buried his face in his arms his body convulsing softly with the residual sobs of before.

Giving the boy a sound beating had been her original motive for searching him out. Now, as she watched his lanky frame shiver with sorrow, whispering unintelligible words as the tears returned and the hitch in his breath increased in frequency, she found herself unsure. After making the mistake of comparing their situations and finding them similar Yoruichi was now trapped in a soft compassion for the dirty child.

"Yes," She murmured.

Flooded green eyes darted to meet hers and she saw the bright curiosity of before, the light that had been obvious in his gaze from the second she saw him clinging to that cliff. "You really can talk..." He whispered her hearing and close proximity the only thing that made it possible to catch the surprised mumble of words.

"Did you think you imagined it?" Yoruichi asked as she watched the boy's posture change, his arms uncurling from his torso, becoming more open.

"I was beginning to."

"Why would you do that?" Yoruichi asked her ears swiveling forward as her whiskers perked up in curiosity.

The question seemed to remind him of whatever had brought him to this point and his chin trembled as a fresh tear tumbled over his eyelashes and down his cheek. He gave a loud sniff and shook his head his dirty blonde hair falling into his eyes.

Quickly Yoruichi moved closer and captured the tear with a flick of her tiny pink tongue. Instead of helping the boy only sobbed louder and suddenly she was caught in his arms her breath almost hugged from her small body. The "oof" of expelled breath was enough for the boy to loosen his grip but he didn't release her. Yoruichi made herself relax and settle on his chest surprised at how easily she could feel his ribs.

"Why are you crying?" Yoruichi ventured as his skilled fingers found the perfect spot under her chin to start up her purr. She let her eyes close, she had only been held by Ryūken in her animal form and never long enough to be pet or for her to realize she was capable of purring. Of course she could purr! She landed on her feet when she fell too, just like a cat! She should know better.

"My friend yelled at me."

"The boy from yesterday?"

"Tessai-san..." He murmured. "I'm Urahara Kisuke," He continued, then fell silent and Yoruichi was pretty sure he expected her to reply with an introduction of her own.

"Why did he yell at you?" She asked instead and it was enough to distract him, she was pretty sure in normal circumstances he wouldn't be so easily diverted from his curiosity.

"I...I wanted to sneak into the Seireitei to see you."

Surprised Yoruichi could only purr as his fingers moved to the side of her neck, under hear ear. "Me?"

"I've never met a talking cat before."

"You'd probably get put in prison," Yoruichi warned and the boy gave a long sigh, the large breath making his small chest expand under the kitten. "Don't be stupid."

"T-that's what he said..."

Damn that was the wrong thing to say, Yoruichi thought as she felt the tremble in the child's frame. She looked up and saw he had squeezed his eyes shut to try and capture the fresh tears. It was true, the kid was lucky he'd gotten in the walls the first time, let alone far enough in to see the Shihōin palace walls. "You should go and find him, trying to get into the Seireitei isn't a good idea."

"I can't!" Kisuke protested and Yoruichi went tense as his entire frame shuddered with his sorrow. "He-" Sniff. "He's already gone! He yelled at me to leave him alone f-f-forever!"

His petting paused as her ears tilted outward and down a little, in the kitty version of a frown. She debated on whether or not she should help him, it was sort of the opposite of what she had come here intending to do. Well she wasn't really doing what she had started the day imagining. Retribution had turned into consolation thanks to a little empathy. "I can find him."

A yowl of surprise erupted from the kitten as the boy bolted up into a sitting position his arms clutching the cat close so she wouldn't tumble to the ground. "H-how?"

"I am a cat."

"Really?"

A trill of worry ran along Yoruichi's spine at the question and she squirmed in his arms until he let her down. She looked up at him, and although the sorrow was still there in the clean tracks of his face and the overall fragileness of his frame, the curiosity was so bright in his green eyes there was no mistaking what it was. "I can follow his trail with my nose."

"Oh..."

Perplexed Yoruichi watched his face fall and she fought the impulse to ask why he was so disappointed that she had the senses of a cat. Maybe he suspected she wasn't really what she looked like. Truthfully she wasn't, but at the same time was.

"I can follow him too."

"How?"

"I..." He broke eye contact only frustrating Yoruichi more.

With a small growl she turned and left the small enclosed space. I can't believe I wanted to help-

"W-wait!"

Ignoring the cry, she kept walking through the woodlands conscious of the footsteps crashing after her. She knew he would probably try to follow her into the Seireitei but it would be much harder for him this time around. She let out a yowl as the boy scooped her up and squeezed her close.

"D-don't leave!"

Surprised by the tears in his voice Yoruichi didn't sink her claws into the boy's arm as her first instinct screamed. "Let me go!" She ordered. "Right now-oof!" She only twisted her body at the last second her legs folding to absorb the landing as he did exactly as she ordered. She lunged forward and shunpoed away, once again ignoring the boy's cries as he took chase again.

"I can see it! I can see the glow!"

Kisuke almost tripped over her as she came to an abrupt stop. She looked up at him in disbelief. He could only mean her spiritual energy, and he could only see it if he... "Use it to follow your friend then!" She shouted and started to leave even if her curiosity screamed inside her to turn back and have a long talk with the boy.

So both of them...This Kisuke and his friend Tessai, they both had enough spiritual energy to sense it in others. "Stop following me!"

"But..." Kisuke stumbled to a stop as the kitten stopped to turn back and glare at him. "He said he didn't want to have to worry about me anymore...My...s-stupid suicidal curiosity..."

"He's right," Yoruichi growled and immediately regretted it as she noticed the tears were making fresh paths of clean on his face. "If you were thinking about trying to get into the Seireitei."

They both just stood there, staring at each other until Yoruichi broke eye contact to lower her head and give the itch behind her ear a scratch with her back paw. "Let's go," She sighed and turned to follow the path she'd followed into the thick of the woodlands to the spot where Tessai's trail went off by itself.

It was a few minutes of silence before Kisuke's curiosity overwhelmed both his sorrow and manners. "How'd you learn to talk?"

"Like everyone else does."

"Your parents taught you?"

She didn't clarify that it was Geboku and a few other servants, since "everyone else" would have learned from their parents.

Her silence didn't deter him, now that he had her to question. "How many talking cats are there in soul society?"

"One," She grumbled.

"Oh..." The soft gasp took her by surprise and she glanced back at him. "I'm sorry."

Sorry? Yoruichi tried not to trip as her attention wavered. Why would he be sorry? She turned back to the trail the older boy had left behind.

"Can you see it too?" The question burst out of Kisuke as if he had been holding it in forever.

"See what?"

"N-nothing, never mind."

Damn it, Yoruichi glared at the dirt as she kept her nose working. She needed to be able to focus to smell...In sudden inspiration Yoruichi stopped using her nose and focused on sensing the trail of spiritual energy that would no doubt spill out of Tessai to leave an obvious trail.

"Can all cats in soul society talk?"

"Not that I know of," Yoruichi said gruffly as he distracted her, wondering how she'd gotten into this mess. What had looked like a chance to stretch her fighting skills ended up being a...What was this? Why was she doing this?

"Do you know a lot of cats then?" Kisuke continued.

"Do you always-"

"Ask so many questions? Yeah," Kisuke had to stumble to a stop to avoid stepping on the cat as she stopped abruptly and peer up with amber eyes.

"I'd like to be able to concentrate please," Yoruichi sighed when the boy didn't seem ashamed for the constant stream of questions.

"Me too but only to keep it palpable..." He gave a small nod and pressed his finger over his lips. "Ssh, sorry."

Palpable? Yoruichi snapped her tiny jaw shut before she proved she was no better than he. Instead she filed it away for later and relaxed the hold on her spiritual energy and it moved out with little coaxing in front of her to light up the unintentional trail of spiritual energy left behind by the boy.

Trying her best to ignore the loud gasp of surprise Kisuke let out the moment her guards were relaxed. "I'm not helping you unless you promise not to try to break into the Seireitei."

"But I dreamt of your palace...well a palace...and paw prints...'

Yoruichi didn't have to focus as much with her spiritual pressure, the hard part was controlling it, she was letting it have free reign. "Paw prints, eh?"

"Everyone thinks I'm special since I dream," Meaning he was surprised that she wasn't acting the same.

"I dream too," Yoruichi reminded him. "Remember?" The princess was also aware of just how odd it was for those in Soul Society to dream, since Geboku had thrown a fit when she'd caught wind that her charge dreamed.

"What do you dream of?"

"My home."

Unfortunately he wasn't satisfied by her short answer, and didn't mind shooting even more at her because of it along with, "Shihōin palace? You live there and dream of it?"

"What about you?"

"L-listen koneko-sama if you promise to...stay and talk," Kisuke's cheeks flushed. "Or to come back and visit. I'll avoid the Seireitei."

"You want to ask me countless questions don't you?" Yoruichi tried to keep the smile out of her voice, since her feline face didn't do obvious ones, no need to encourage the behavior. "Do you think I'm the maker of these paw prints in your dream?"

The musical laughter that burst from the boy was almost infectious; Yoruichi had hardly heard one so free, unrestrained. "Not unless you can become large enough to leave a paw print bigger than my hand."

Kisuke leaned down and held his hand out, fingers stretched wide. He tried his best not to grin like a fool when the little kitten moved close again and lifted up onto her back legs to press her tiny paw into the center of his palm.

The beautiful glow of the creature's energy had kept him completely distracted since it had first pulsed out past her fur. It had quickly exceeded anything Tessai had unless he focused; when he'd rescued him on the cliff for example.

When the paw came into contact Kisuke noticed the tingling brush of the energy spilling out, like Tessai all the time. There had been no sign of it before, even when he'd held the cat close when he'd first woken up in the forest.

"It will get bigger as I grow but not much bigger than this," Yoruichi dropped back to all four paws.

"How old are you?" Kisuke had thought the voice more mature than his or Tessai's.

"How old are you?" Yoruichi countered haughtily.

"Ten and a half."

"Really?"

"You?" Kisuke crossed his arms over his narrow chest.

"We're the same age," Yoruichi glanced over to the first glowy traces of the other boy's path. "You really haven't been here long either."

"Here?"

Yoruichi moved away from the boy, her mood to talk waning as she thought about the major difference between the two of them. Nobility born in Soul Society and a soul Konsoed here just when his life was beginning in the World of the Living.

She wasn't sure if he knew what it meant to be here and she didn't want to educate him. "I'll come back tomorrow...You can tell your friend you're smart enough to stay out of Seireitei."

"You're leaving?"

"You don't need me-"

"But I...Do you have to get back to the palace?"

"No!" Yoruichi said before thinking, the part of her that drove her to escape the palace, rebelled at the idea of having to be trapped there. "I mean...the...the princess will miss me, but she knows I have to stretch my legs."

"Stretch 'em while we find Tessai," He pleaded, the bright curiosity in his green eyes called to her own.

A question for a question.

The only other person she'd known to dream was Ryūken, who didn't want anyone to know. She hadn't met anyone else that could, and no one she knew, knew anyone.

"You just want to ask me countless questions," She repeated, but turned and started to follow Tessai's trail. "Only if you reciprocate."

"Huh?" Kisuke moved to walk beside her and she glanced up at him.

"I get to ask questions too."

"All right!" He startled her with the adamant shout of agreement. She looked up to see how bright his face had become, the clean tracks through the dirt on his face was now the only proof of his earlier sorrow. "Back and forth?"

Yoruichi shook her head at the excited suggestion. "I don't care as long as you answer all of my questions."

"If I have to answer yours, you have to answer mine."

"I don't think so," Yoruichi couldn't help the regal tilt to her head, of course at her size it seemed like she was looking up at him.

She knew he would still want to ask questions since she still did. "I don't have any secrets..."

"Then you shouldn't worry about it; am I not allowed to have secrets?"

A low bark of laughter escaped the boy, "You really sound like you grew up in a palace with a princess."

"I should hope so!" Yoruichi growled, not understanding why that needed reminding, or why he said it like it was bad thing.

They moved together quietly and both of them wondered if the other was going to be absolutely truthful with their answers. "That glow..."

"My spiritual energy?" At the boy's curious, but totally confused expression she continued. "What you track Tessai-kun with. It sometimes surrounds me like a cloud?"

"Yes!"

"That's my spiritual energy," Yoruichi nodded and glanced up at the boy, wishing to have the freedom to change to her human shape, to be eye-to-eye with the boy while talking. "My reiryoku, with training one can sense the pressure – their reiatsu - of another's against theirs...I have it because I'm noble, I was given a lot of it from my parents, who have lots of it...it's why the Shihōin are of the noble houses."

"Well-" Kisuke tried to remember this divergence from his original topic, because he couldn't bear not to ask. "Why isn't Tessai in a noble house?"

"He wasn't born in Soul Society."

"Born..." His eyebrows tucked down into a perplexed scowl Yoruichi thought was cute. "What's the difference?"

"That's a complicated idea," Yoruichi grumbled.

"You don't think I'd understand it?"

"No," She answered right away, knowing he was bright enough. "I wouldn't want to garble my information, Ryū-kun-" She quickly closed her mouth but she should have known he wouldn't let that go without question.

"Human or beastie?"

"Human," Yoruichi sniffed, not sure if she should be offended by being referred to as a, "beastie."

"Ah," He seemed to understand that she was getting close to off-limits information. "A friend?"

"Yes!" She cringed, her ears flattening down as she realized she'd sounded quite passionate, accidentally conveying just how dear a friend Ryūken was. "I have a scroll about reiryoku..." She tried to distract him with but realized she probably couldn't manage that particular scroll in her kitty form. That particular scroll was heavy.

"I'd love to see it, but I promised not to sneak into the Seireitei," Kisuke rolled his eyes and was pleased when that earned him a chuckle from the kitten.

"Sneak!" Yoruichi surprised him with the part of his statement that made her laugh. "You may have mastered masking your spiritual energy but what do you know about sneaking?"

"I don't suppose I could match Oh Great Koneko-sama," Kisuke answered, the grin on his face out of place with the humble words. "We can play hide and seek if you want."

The challenge in his tone had Yoruichi biting her tongue and instead reminding him, "We have to find your friend."

"Maybe later then," Kisuke felt curiosity anew reigniting the other questions inside. "The reiryoku," He tried the word out on his tongue. "Why do you think I...have it?"

"You can sense it," Yoruichi said with a tone that suggested it should be an obvious answer.

"I can feel it...like prickles if I touch it and I can see it," He explained.

"No you can't," Yoruichi said simply.

"Um, I'm pretty sure I can-"

"No, I mean nobody can see it," Yoruichi began. "Not with your normal eyes anyway."

"What kinda eyes?"

Yoruichi could see the almost radiant curiosity on his face, his movements becoming much more animated. "The glow you think you see is seen with your reiryoku...with its eyes."

"I don't have-"

"Yes, you do," Yoruichi yowled as her ire sparked. "You just know how to keep it hidden well; my senses are still being trained."

Kisuke wondered if the cat knew he'd just implied that he did something better than the snooty kitten, if she meant that she couldn't see-sense-his supposed spiritual energy. "How could I do that without knowing? I didn't know I had it, and I've never had any training, ever!"

Yoruichi didn't want to talk about that, she only knew things about her spiritual energy because of Ryūken and occasional encouraging comments from Kentetsu that lead to questioning sessions much like the one she was currently engaged in. "Dumb luck?"

They were quiet for a long time, long enough for her to feel like she should apologize for saying he was dumb. She wanted to know more about the boy, even if she knew it was foolish to let people know about this other shape. Who would he tell though?

Somehow he and his friend had avoided stray hollows camping out in the wilds. She had started this tête-à-tête to learn about someone else's dreams, but other questions started to pop up, questions she really had no place wondering...or she shouldn't, she shouldn't even care!

"Where do you live?"

The boy was stunned quiet for a few moments before shrugging, "Nowhere really. We camp in the forest mostly; Tessai tries to keep us out of the rougher districts of Rukongai, so...wherever we can scrounge for food really."

Pretending to orient herself with a sniff to the ground, Yoruichi hid her frown, her ears tilting outward displeased. People with any above average level of spiritual energy needed food; people like Tessai needed lots of food, regularly.

Somehow he seemed to understand her surge of silent contemplation. "We've been scraping along for a handful of years together."

"I don't care," She said defensively and moved faster over the ground, putting space between them as her senses told her they were getting to the end of their journey. How had she started the day out wanting to fight the boy and ended up befriending him to the point where she worried for his welfare. "He's just up ahead."

Kisuke fell behind, dragging his feet, since he was sure the kitten would leave once he was reunited with Tessai. He had been thinking he should learn how to take care of himself; it had been scary when Tessai had told him he was traveling away from the shining Seireitei, with or without his younger friend. Even if he was pretty sure he could continue to fight to live without him, there had never been time in their travels for him to find someone else. He'd be alone for the first time.

All he had was Tessai, and if the fight of earlier was any indication the older lad was tired of the constant questions that spurted forth even when his partner had run out of his meager supply of answers.

"Hurry up!" Yoruichi shouted, turning back to see that the boy had stopped walking altogether. She growled and moved back to sit in front of the boy's feet, glaring up at him. "He's sleeping just over here in the trees."

"You're going to come back tomorrow?"

"Where?" Yoruichi thought to ask, the boy's had no permanent home.

"W-we'll camp just outside the Seireitei," Kisuke offered. "We can walk you back and before you leave we can show you where to meet up with us tomorrow?"

"All right," Yoruichi almost slapped herself, at least the feline form kept her from doing it. It was true she wanted to see the boy again, but...well why not? She was friends with Ryūken why couldn't she be friends with...Oh no! No!

Kisuke watched the furry face change from one expression to the other, it had taken him some time but he was starting to see the slight changes in the dark kitten's tiny face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" She looked away when her voice came out higher than usual, flustered by the sudden feeling of friendship she had found developing between them. Why this dirty, malnourished boy? She had met plenty of children her age that...That what Yoru? She asked herself. You know all of those spoiled brats don't have enough character combined in comparison to this kid.

"I'll go wake up Tessai. Don't leave yet, all right?" Kisuke took the cat by surprise by crouching down to scoop her up, a hand under each of her front legs, her lower half dangling as he lifted her to eye-level. "Don't go anywhere please?"

"Put. Me. Down. Now," She managed to get out past the angry hiss.

Kisuke's eyes went wide in shock before he gently put her back down and stood. "I'll be right back!" He called as he ran over toward where he sensed his friend was hiding asleep.

Yoruichi watched after him and gave her small body a shake. After a few licks she'd smoothed anything he managed to ruffle her eyes watching as the boys exchanged words. Tessai didn't look happy, and none of the words spilling out of the gasping Kisuke seemed to make it any better. She resisted the impulse to sneak closer and eavesdrop; she was a princess and that was uncouth...Not the eavesdropping part, this shape was made for that, and she could use spiritual energy to strengthen her feline hearing, but whatever it was looked like it should be private.

Whatever they were discussing soon got loud enough for her to hear even while she was trying her best not to listen. She resisted trying, since the argument was still unintelligible at this point. She could feel the intent of the larger boy's reiatsu start to change, from something friendly, to something less so. Kisuke's unflustered countenance didn't change, even if it seemed he was getting upset, not a single sign of spiritual energy.

Maybe he was right? Yoruichi wasn't very good at getting past what others put up to guard themselves from other's spiritual pressure. She would have to ask Ryūken if it was possible for someone to do what Kisuke suggested he was able to do, see spiritual energy.

A shiver ran down her spine all the way to tip of her tail as the intent of the peaceful older boy became something worth worrying over. She quickly stood and made her way to the two boys, Tessai on his feet and moving closer and closer into the smaller boy's personal space. As she finally started hearing their conversation she started to shunpo.

"...so you can go ahead and choose!" Tessai was shouting as she made out what he was shouting at the suddenly timid child before him.

Yoruichi stopped a few feet away as she watched Kisuke's timid posture straightened and his face adopted an infuriated scowl. She couldn't sense the intent of his reiatsu-couldn't even find an ounce of it at all-but she could see it in the new set of his shoulders. Then the smaller boy was walking toward her, the shocked look on his friend's face distracting enough for Yoruichi that Kisuke had to reach down and touch her to catch her attention.

"Let's go," He whispered.

The distress in the boy's voice urged Yoruichi not to argue and she moved closer to lift her front legs, pressing her paws into his leg. She didn't know what she was trying to convey to Kisuke until he carefully picked her up in his arms and cradled her securely as he took them back the way they'd come without his companion.

"What's wrong?" Yoruichi asked as she managed to peek back at the older boy, who was staring after Kisuke like he was a stranger, doing unexpected things.

"He told me to pick between my curiosity and him," Kisuke muttered, the words soggy with the tears he seemed to be refusing to spill.

"Urahara-kun your friend-"

"He's being unreasonable!" A whine lifted the boy's voice as he refused to look back at Tessai. "I told him we could leave after I was done asking you questions, but he wants to leave now!" He spit out the last word like acid. "He said he's catered to my bizarrely high level of curiosity long enough."

Yoruichi made herself relax in the boy's arms, one of his hands absentmindedly stroking under her chin, making her purr. Was this the same boy she had found crying alone in the forest earlier, voluntarily putting himself back into the situation that had caused him to break down before? "How will you survive?"

"I can take care of myself Koneko-sama," Kisuke assured her. "Tessai taught me everything he knew."

"But he's your friend," She blurted out before she thought over her words.

"He's not acting like one right now," Kisuke argued.

Although she didn't know the boy as well as the older boy that had known him years, she could see that those deep green eyes wouldn't look the same without curiosity shining like an inner light in them. To ask him to stop being curious would be tantamount to asking him to stop breathing. He would die.

The trip back toward the Seireitei was much quieter than before, but Yoruichi was positive it wasn't because the boy was no longer curious about her. Kisuke did the walking so she was free to think about what she would do if she had a fight with Ryūken and had to choose between something integral to her character and his companionship. Like her cat form. Or her mischievous streak. Sure she could behave if she had to, but if left to her own devices she couldn't fight her own nature. Maybe she would mature out of it, but she was pretty sure she would always be strong-willed and impish.

After they reached the halfway point of the trek back toward the center of Soul Society Yoruichi couldn't keep herself quiet. She was relaxed and comfortable in the close warmth of Kisuke's arms but knew that curiosity was practically vibrating through the boy.

It was as good a time as any to lessen her curiosity.

"What do you dream of?"

"The jungle," Kisuke answered after a few moments, like when she had started to answer his questions, contemplating how to sate the question as concisely as possible.

"Jungle?" Yoruichi prompted; irritated that he would treat her to behavior he himself didn't appreciate. The two word response only made a dozen more questions sprout to life in her mind. Had he traveled so far that he had encountered jungle? Otherwise how did he know to dream...?

"It's always the jungle, endless, like there's nothing else in the world-" Kisuke grunted as Yoruichi's claws dug into his arm. "Koneko-sama?"

Panic filled the small kitten as she caught sight of a familiar pale-haired boy walking toward them. They weren't far now from the Seireitei and it seemed as though Ryūken had gotten tired of waiting for her. Or maybe something had happened at home? Yoruichi took advantage of the boy's slack arms and escaped. "I'll see you tomorrow," She meowed as she started away, before he could notice the other boy.

"But-"

"I have to go!" Yoruichi tried to say calmly, but this was both of her lives running into each other. Who knew what Ryūken might say to give away her identity; Kisuke was smart enough to put a few scraps together to make an educated guess.

"Ah..." Kisuke looked flustered a few moments before he nodded. "Our old camp wasn't far from where you found me today."

"All right I'll meet you there!" Yoruichi called as she quickly shunpoed away.

Kisuke watched after the cat, his senses helping him to keep track of her even as she disappeared from view over and over again. He slowly followed the direction she had rushed off to.

Who...He bit his bottom lip as he caught sight of a stranger, a boy that couldn't be more than a few months older or younger than he. He didn't look like he was waiting for anyone, but walking in a determined direction, until the small dark shape of Yoruichi reached him and leap up into his surprised arms. Maybe the mysterious Ryū-kun?

Curiosity blazed up inside the small boy like a star.

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