When Myrnal Shalienza arrived at the orphanage, she had the typical array of their most adorable children displayed in all their desperate glory. She sighed and wondered if maybe she was wrong to come here. Inconceivable that any of these orphans be subjected to someone so willful and withdrawn as she. To be frank, they could all do much better for themselves.
"So," she said to the owner in Common. "Is this everyone?"
"Just about," he answered. "We have a few who are busy with other things and... well, one or two who aren't generally interested in visitors."
she thought. There's what I'm looking for.
"...It's probably just as well," the man had continued. "The children who would fare best have all come. Has anyone caught your eye?"
"Actually, I'd like to go bother one of the kids who didn't come out. Is that possible?"
"Well, I suppose. Yes, of course." He ushered her back from the common meeting area through the dormitory hall and out onto the back patio. Lying under the stars in the grass was a young boy with slate-colored fur short and thick enough to stand in soft ridges when the wind blew through it. "Shigetomi Hideki, this is Sharienza Minaru," he announced in their own tongue. "She's come to speak with you since we didn't see you out with the others."
Two large green eyes slowly rolled over in the boy's face to inspect Myrnal.
Wow. Disinterested was an understatement. This may work out after all.
"You can leave us," she said to the owner, in Common once again. "I'd kind of like to talk to him."
"Well, the only problem is that he doesn't speak much Common, ma'am."
"That isn't a problem," she answered in Nekonian. "Seriously. Ten minutes to have an actual conversation with him or I walk."
"Sorry. My mistake." He bowed in apology. "I'll be inside when you two are done." He glanced down to ensure that the boy was comfortable with the decision. Hideki flicked his ear in annoyance. The owner sighed. Something told him getting anything further from either his charge or this woman would make his fur sizzle and fall out. He made his way back inside.
Hideki spoke first from his position in the grass. "So you're a human."
"Good eye. What was your first clue?" It was too late for her to bite back the sarcastic remark, but she reasoned that if he couldn't handle a little sarcasm he was better off without her anyway.
He sat up and twisted around to look at her. "So what do you want with me? I thought grownups were all determined to change diapers and stuff."
"No thanks. How old are you?"
"Nine years old. You?"
She smirked. She was getting to like his forward manner, so different from the appeasing eagerness of the other children. "I'll be twenty four this fall." Nine? That is absolutely eerie.
"You know, I was nine when my family took me in."
"And before that?"
The boy could handle hearing it. After all, his family wasn't around either, was it? "My father died when I was very young. My mother and little brother and I lived in southwestern Doma until our village was attacked and they were both killed. Near as I could tell, I was the only one left. I found another home a few towns over, and I lived with an elderly couple until they died about three months ago. Now I'm here. Any other questions?"
"Yeah. Why come all the way to Nekonia? Just picking up strays?"
"You could say that. I was, as you put it, a stray myself once. Why shouldn't I pass on the favor?"
He scoffed. "Sorry. Hate to disappoint you, but I'm not looking for company, and I'm not looking for a new mom. I had a mom, and you aren't her."
Myrnal shrugged, unphased. She sat down beside him in the grass. "Then how about this. We won't do the family thing. To be honest, I dont' know if I'm cut out for it, either. What I can do is take you on as a student."
"Student of what?"
His eyes widened and his ears arced forward in surprise. "But you're human!"
"Yeah. Once again, good eye. I learned from a Nekojin master, though. What do you say? Worst case scenario, you come back here having learned a few new tricks."
Hideki's ear traced idly the path of some distant sound as he considered his options. The situation had changed somewhat. The choice wasn't merely living here or there, with her or them. It was a choice between the orphanage and ninja training. "And if I say yes, and go with you... what? Haul buckets of water for the next ten years? 'Cuz that's what I heard."
"Minimal water-hauling, I promise." Myrnal really was beginning to like this kid, and she'd gotten used to trust her instincts where people were concerned. "So what do you say? Give a lonely ninja half a chance?"
He shrugged. "Whatever. Sure. can't really say no to that." A grin slipped past his mask of indifference. "So I mean... a ninja? Really?"
"If you're up to it."
"Yeah!" He coughed, embarassed by his own enthusiasm. "Yeah, sure."
So he returned with Myrnal, now Minaru-sensei. His imminent training was a secret between them as Myrnal made final arrangements with the orphanage.
Hideki took to his training with enthusiasm, determined to prove he wasn't just some scared street kid. This kind of opportunity wouldn't ever come again, so it was all he had.
Myrnal herself was glad of the company, and grateful for a chance to repay what luck had given her at Hideki's age. Her own family was gone, and after the loss of two sets of parents she felt as alone as he was.
Edited by: [url=http://p068.ezboard.com/brpgww60462.showUserPublicProfile?gid=kai@rpgww60462>Kai</A] at: 8/4/06 1:58