Killua doesn’t do it on purpose; he just
wants to survive.
Although he lives in an old, abandoned building in the slums of the small town that is Meteor City, there are rich people who walk by every day, usually passing through to get to their real destination. Everyone who lives here can spot those newcomers right away: they have clean, unscathed clothes, sometimes decorated with expensive jewelry that would sell for enough money to last Killua the rest of the month; they leave behind a lingering scent of overpriced perfume—a welcoming aroma to replace the normally dust-filled air; and they generally just look cleaner. There is no dirt sticking to their skin and it’s obvious that they bathe regularly.
So Killua figures that if he happens to just accidentally bump into these high-class citizens who don’t even fully appreciate what they have and completely unintentionally wrap his fingers around that twenty dollar bill in their pockets, they probably wouldn’t even notice.
He is a thief—not by choice but by circumstance. After years of surviving this way, though, he finds that he doesn’t particularly mind this morally unethical way of living.
He, and many others like him, is the reason why travelers do everything they can to avoid going through Meteor City.
He is the one people should look out for on the streets, the skinny boy with the messy white hair and dirt-covered skin and the cunning blue eyes. The boy who seems unthreatening and nothing like a dangerous being, but is, in reality, exactly that person. Because the most frightening things in life often seems harmless in the beginning.
Contrary to popular belief, there are things even the poverty-stricken boy with nothing to lose hides. He is an innocent child on the outside, with a beggar’s eyes and just barely enough food picked up from leftovers thrown on the floor to survive; poor boy, people look at him with pity as they walk by (but that’s all they do: just walk and walk and walk, forgetting the image of the starving child with dirtied skin the minute they’re out of town).
On the inside, however, Killua is a magician: a master of deception, skilled with the art of words and fluent actions and misdirection. He can go up to someone, look them in the eye, and still somehow manage to walk away with a leather wallet in his hands without the person ever noticing. He can cross paths with someone and completely erase his presence to casually slip his hand into their pocket so skillfully that if asked, the person wouldn’t even be able to say that they saw the white-haired boy at all.
Killua is just another homeless boy in Meteor City, guarded with the armour of thievery. And he is good.
He steals from the rich, the wealthy, the people who can drop money on the floor and not go back to desperately search for the coins as if it were a life-or-death situation. He steals from the affluent because he knows that the poor have nothing to offer to him.
So when Killua sees the brown-haired boy with scraped clothing sitting next to the dumpster for the first time, he simply ignores him.
The next day, Killua is anxious.
Food has become scarce and even though he just went scavenging for leftovers yesterday, he’s already run short of his supply. He’s been eating less than usual this past week—the usual being a juicy apple to last the day if he’s lucky and stale bread if he isn’t—and his constantly growling stomach is getting harder and harder to ignore.
But today, as Killua looks down the street for his next victim, he realizes that everyone else here is the same as him: starving and anxious. Desperate. No one is passing through town today.
The only possible target that Killua even considers is the boy next to the dumpster—he has dubbed him Dumpster Boy in his mind. For whatever reason, Dumpster Boy hasn’t moved from that spot since yesterday, and Killua is fine with that because it just makes things more convenient for him. He watches the brown-haired boy with eyes of an eagle, studying his prey. Out of everyone in town at the moment, this kid definitely looks the best-off; his hair is fairly clean and his clothes are decent. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t give off the same stink as everyone else.
As Killua strides closer to this boy, he tosses all his morals out the window. He promised himself that he would only steal from the wealthy but he doesn’t have many options at the moment. In a world where Killua is just a child trying to follow the rules of survival-of-the-fittest, exceptions have to be made and adapting to the situation is not only mandatory, but crucial.
He approaches the unsuspecting boy, footsteps concealed and movements silenced. There is neither guilt nor pity in his heart as adrenaline rushes through his veins and he attacks his first victim of the day.
For Killua, it’s become second nature.
The tiptoeing, the fluid movements, and the instincts of a thief have all become engraved into his body, shining through with every skill he shows and every target he robs. The chocolate-haired boy seems to be dozing off, fighting against the sleep that is threatening to take over his body. It’s almost too easy, Killua smirks.
He makes his way around the back of the dumpster, purposely choosing the route that will hide him from his target until the last minute. With each step, he inches closer to the unsuspecting boy. Killua is calm. He is experienced and skilled. Completely in his comfort zone, the thief reaches out a hand and sneaks it into the sleeping boy’s pocket; even this is done with fluid movements and careful precision.
And then—a shuffle.
Killua freezes. Slowly, very slowly, he turns to face the boy who had just been sleeping moments ago. Their eyes lock, dark brown orbs meeting teal blue ones.
For Killua, for a thief, it is all over when his victim catches him in the act of stealing. The instant he is noticed, he has lost.
The other boy opens his mouth to speak, but Killua’s ears are ringing and his brain is working overtime to think of a way out of this situation, so he does the only logical thing anyone in this kind of predicament, thief or not, would do: he bolts.
Sprinting and zigzagging a long detour through town, he runs back to the abandoned building he calls home without once looking back. Finally stopping to catch his breath, Killua sneaks a glange behind him and is relieved to see that the chocolate-brown haired boy is nowhere in sight, probably didn’t even chase after him to begin with altogether.
In his hand, he still holds the almost-broken wallet that he took—okay, stole—from Dumpster Boy’s pocket. Opening it, careful not to spill its contents, Killua finds a surprising amount of money for someone who sleeps on the floor by the road every night.
He thinks back to when the boy first woke up, eyes gazing at him curiously, almost innocently. But Killua gets the feeling that Dumpster Boy knew what was going on, knew that he was being robbed, and let Killua go despite all that.
The boy can’t be much older than Killua himself. He must have gone through the same hardships as Killua to obtain such a large sum of money, and yet, he was willing to give it all up, because of whatever reason that the white-haired boy can’t even begin to imagine.
For the first time since Killua became a thief many years ago, he finds himself feeling just a little bit guilty for his actions.
The next day, the white-haired boy is still starving.
In the morning, he wakes up to a terrible cramp—it’s his stomach’s way of complaining that he’s gone too long without food. What are you doing? It growls at him righteously. You have money now.
And it’s true. He still has Dumpster Boy’s wallet tucked away safely in his own pocket, with enough coins to actually get him a decent meal for the first time in a long while. It’s a wonder, really, why he hasn’t gone out and gotten himself some fruit or even a bowl of porridge—because, finally, he can afford that now!
Deep down, however, Killua knows that the foreign sensation in his body at the moment is the cause of his reluctance to actually spend the cash he stole.
If only he could eat his own guilt, he thinks.
Sighing, the white-haired boy gets up and steps outside. He steadies his resolve, thinking, screw it, I need to eat, and walks toward the shabby food stands that make up the small market in Meteor City.
A few minutes later, Killua finds himself back at the dumpster once more.
“Hey, it’s you again,” Dumpster Boy greets him. This time, Killua hasn’t bothered to conceal his presence. “Why did you come back?”
That is the very same question the white-haired boy is asking himself—though he already knows the answer in his heart. “I… came to return this.” He hands the leather wallet back to its rightful owner.
And it’s weird, Killua thinks. He’s never gone back after stealing someone’s money, especially not to return the stolen cash, of all things. Maybe it’s because Dumpster Boy is around his age so he feels some sort of sympathy for him. Maybe all the hidden guilt from the past is coming out all at once and for some unfathomable reason, he thinks that he can redeem himself just a little bit by doing his most recent victim a good deed (it’s stupid, really; he will never be redeemed, not in this lifetime).
The boy’s reaction matches his own feeling of surprise. “You’re giving this back to me? You didn’t use it to buy some food?”
That’s what I should’ve done, the white-haired boy thinks. “No, I… it felt wrong to steal from you. I’ll find money some other way.”
Dumpster Boy turns to really look at him. Killua knows exactly what he sees: a skinny, clearly starved child with sharp eyes and just a thin, plain T-shirt and shorts to cover his body. It’s not a rare sight in Meteor City, but under the gaze of the brown-haired boy, Killua suddenly feels uncomfortable. He’s not used to being stared at because being a thief means staying hidden and out of sight—but it’s also more than that.
Dumpster Boy’s dark orbs, he notices, are full of life.
They twinkle with curiosity. They sparkle with wonder at the world. They flicker up and down, left and right, absorbing in every detail. In Meteor City, a place of death, this boy’s eyes are one of the few things that contain a sense of life and vibrant energy.
“You’ll find money some other way?” He repeats Killua’s words. “You mean you’ll steal from someone else?” He sees right through him, effortlessly.
Killua finds that he can no longer look the boy in the eye—not when the opposing boy’s eyes are so alive, while his own are dull, cynical, and give away all the sins he’s committed.
Fortunately, he doesn’t need to reply because Dumpster Boy continues: “Okay then, I’ll give you half my money.”
Killua’s head snaps up. Meteor City is a place where its residents have to do dirty jobs to earn enough coins for a small meal every day at best and scrap food off the streets at worst. Fights can break out over just a single crumb of bread found on the ground. The environment is harsh and simply getting by each day is a struggle; no one gives out money for free.
But the boy is already counting the cash in his torn-up wallet and hands a stack of bills over to Killua when he splits the pile in half. For a long time, Killua stares in bewilderment at the outstretched hand in front of him.
He should take it, he knows; it’s not like anyone else would just offer him money like this. There is probably enough to feed him for at least a week. Take the money, politely thank this generous stranger, and walk away—that’s what any sane person would do.
And, of course, that’s exactly what Killua doesn’t do. Because believe it or not, he still has some morals inside of him, despite having cheated people out of their money for so long.
“I… I can’t accept this.” He pushes Dumpster Boy’s hand away almost regretfully.
The brown-haired boy smiles as if he knew that would be Killua’s answer. He reaches out seemingly to accept the money back but clasps his hands on top if Killua’s instead, sandwiching the bills between their fingers. “In that case, why don’t you come with me and we can leave town together?”
Killua’s fingers tense up slightly upon contact. He has grown up in Meteor City and despite its harsh living conditions, Meteor City is his town. Every day, he walks back to the chipped-down house and lies on the ripped mattress in the place he calls home. He knows all the shortcuts and has scavenged through garbage cans and tricked people out of their goods, sometimes almost getting his stick-thin arms caught by strong, steady hands. He has scars and bruises as proof of his struggles, but not once has he ever thought about leaving it all behind.
By becoming a thief and adjusting to the lifestyle here, Killua has made this corrupted city a place he can return to.
And he is about to decline the offer when the next thing Dumpster Boy says makes him hesitate: “We’ll have lots of fun together!”
Life isn’t about fun, the white-haired boy thinks bitterly, life is about survival.
The ironic thing, however, is that every nerve in his body, every instinct that he’s built up inside of him these past few years, are screaming at him to take Dumpster Boy’s hand and follow him out to the unfamiliar landscape beyond Meteor City.
So he does.
(And it’s the first time he’s done something so reckless, but five years later, when he still holds hand with Dumpster Boy daily—he learns that his name is Gon, Gon, Gon—he realizes that leaving Meteor City just might be one of the best decisions of his life.)