A Foot in Death
Kisara is never quite sure what to think of her first meeting with the Thief King.
It is a clear night, one in which the moon spills its light onto the land, and Kisara's way is clearly lit for her. She has no destination in mind, but that is to be expected. She hasn't had any place to go, or any goal to strive towards besides survival, in many years now. She isn't in the best of health, but the cool night air helps. It is cold, but less stifling than the heat of the day. She fears that she will never grow used to the climate in this land. She isn't Remetch, and never will be. How can she be, when wherever she goes, people look at her with fear and mistrust for the spirit she carries with her?
Her thoughts wander fast, as if caught by the wind. As much as she loves the wind, she is glad that the air tonight is calm, for it is cool enough already…
She blinks, and forces her eyes to remain open. She is tired, but she should find shelter before giving in to sleep. At the very least, some shaded area to fall asleep in so that she isn't exposed to the sun once it rises. She should probably like the sun better than she does, but its heat has never been good to her. It can stay in the underworld, for all she cares.
Her mind wanders again, and she only returns to her surroundings when she steps in something wet. She looks down, and squints. The moonlight is only enough to tell her that it is dark, but then she notices the scent. Blood? She looks about, fearful of danger nearby, and notices him.
He's sitting a short distance away, white hair glowing in the pale light. Kisara approaches, nervous, and sees that, rather than being old, he seems to be closer to her own age. Is he like her, then? There's blood on the ground by him, though, which is more important.
She kneels down beside him. "You've been injured."
He glares at her with bloodshot eyes, and when he speaks, his voice rasps. "It's just a cut." He's clutching his arm, and this close, she can see how the dark blood stains the sleeve of the robe which he wears. He's wearing jewelry, too, but it does little to tell her what manner of man he is. He sounds proud, which could mean many things.
Kisara smiles. "Of course. But it needs to be seen to."
He chuckles. It's an unpleasant sound. "Because there are so many physicians out here, after all."
"You should at least let me bind the wound."
He eyes her suspiciously, and then snorts. "Might as well, since you're here anyway." He removes his hand from the wound slowly, watching her all the while.
Feeling suddenly self-conscious, Kisara pulls the robe from that side of his body, baring his arm. He hisses when bits of flesh go with the fabric, but that is all. She looks at the wound for a moment, but the sight makes her queasy. It really isn't too bad, though 'just a cut' is being optimistic.
Thinking it ruined anyway, Kisara pulls the sleeve of the robe, planning on ripping off strips for bandaging, but the man's hand snakes out, grabbing her wrist in a grip so tight it's painful. "One would almost think that you were trying to undress me," he says, sneering.
She flushes, but otherwise ignores that. Her flush increases as she takes strips from the hem of her dress instead, and she tries to touch him as little as possible while bandaging his arm.
Suddenly a nose is sniffing at the bandage, and Kisara jumps, her hands falling from the man's arm. She's been asleep on her feet all night, and nearly nodded off again, clearly- somehow she missed the horse's approach.
The man scratches the horse's head idly. "Came back, did you? At least you're proving yourself worth the effort of stealing."
He's a thief?
Kisara finds that she is too exhausted to care.
When Kisara wakes up she finds that there are walls surrounding her…a house. She's just on the floor, but being in a house at all is unusual for her.
The air feels wrong. What is this place?
Shivering, Kisara stands on trembling legs, and looks out the door.
The sun is setting, but Kisara clearly sees the spirits in the street. They have no clear forms, but they are there, and angry, and Kisara is right in front of them. She steps backwards, and bumps into someone. Craning her head backwards, trying not to take her eyes fully off the street, she sees the man from last night.
He doesn't look at her as he speaks. "Don't go outside if you want to live. They've been waiting for you to get far enough away from Ore-sama to be an acceptable target."
Kisara nods shakily. She can't seem to tear her eyes from the street. The buildings are damaged, and it is clear that only ghosts live here. Does she even want to know what happened?
Snorting, the man drags her back inside, and dumps her onto a chair before a table. "So, what brings you so near to Kul Elna, woman?" His voice is still harsh, and seems to have an inherent mocking quality to it, as if everything he encounters is worthy of his derision.
"I hadn't known there was a village here," she replies.
"So you were just wandering the desert without any supplies, then?" He takes a seat for himself, sneering at her. "Were you trying to die?"
"I've managed so far," is all she says. She's perfectly aware of how close to death she lives, but feels no need to speak of it.
For some reason he laughs. "Well, if you want to 'manage' for much longer, you'd best make yourself useful."
Kisara stiffens. Does he mean…? She hates to admit to herself that she is willing, if so. There are far worse ways to ensure one's survival.
She tries to remember a time when she'd had more pride than this. But only those who can afford it possess pride. Kisara hasn't been able to for many years now.
"…no physician, but it's better than binding a wound with one hand," the man is saying.
Kisara at least has enough pride left to feel relief.
The man feeds her, insists she bathe, and only then insists that she care for his wound. Shortly after that Kisara falls asleep, amazed to be in a bed which the man allowed her to use, appearing to be second-guessing his decision all the while.
The next day begins in a similar manner, and after that is done Kisara is left sitting at the table, trying not to make creases in her new dress by way of curling her fists in it. She should never pick at fabric, and especially not good fabric. But she's nervous, and having difficulty resisting the urge to fidget. The man has gone outside already- apparently the spirits don't bother him-, and she isn't sure what she should be doing with herself.
Clean? Cook? This house is full of rich objects which he probably doesn't want her touching, but does a man who is a thief really have the right to spit on her for touching rich items?
No, but he could do so anyway.
Kisara is used to that sort of thing, so she gives in to temptation and looks at the items within the open chest nearby. It is obscenely ornate, and within it… Kisara may still feel a foreigner in this land, but she recognizes the ushabti well enough.
She hears the man return, and looks over to him. "You're a tomb robber, then?"
"Does that bother you?" He smirks, clearly uncaring.
Kisara considers it, and picks at her dress for a moment before stopping herself. She had guessed that it was stolen, but it is disconcerting to know that she is wearing a dress which almost certainly belongs to a dead woman. Finally, she shakes her head. "I'm not Remetch. What do I care for the customs of your people?"
He is still smirking, but somehow the expression changes, as if what she has said is somehow amusing.
"It doesn't appear that you care much, either."
He laughs in response to that. Kisara isn't sure that she likes his laugh.
Many days pass before Kisara thinks to ask the man's name. It's only polite, but somehow, politeness seems to reside in another world, far away from this haunted village and the thief who is her jailer as much as her host.
Eventually she offers her name, doing it while cooking so that she can distract herself with that and brush this aside if he refuses to give his own.
"Thief King Bakura-sama," is what she receives in return.
She almost thinks it a joke, but already knows that he only makes jokes in order to mock people other than himself, and he is an exceptional thief.
Apparently Bakura's arrogance grows on one.
Kisara gives up on keeping track of how long she has been in this house. She hasn't been aware of the date in quite a while, which robs that activity of much of its point, and isn't certain that she remembers the exact months and their days very well, anyway.
It has been a few weeks, she knows that. At least more than one. The days are falling into a routine quickly: she stays inside and cleans and cooks, while Bakura goes outside and does…something. Some days he returns after a short while, and some he doesn't. When he is away longer, she knows he is stealing something, even before he returns with the stolen goods.
If Kisara was able to step outside, she would seek the horse's company. Bakura isn't very talkative, and seems mostly to be trying to ignore her presence. He had spoken a bit more at first, but perhaps he disliked her responses.
One night, Kisara surrenders to curiosity and speaks, breaking the silence. "What is this place?"
"Kul Elna." Bakura's expression is… She really isn't certain what to think of it. Defensive and enraged and bluffing his usual arrogant disregard all seem inadequate terms.
"I don't know of it."
Bakura's sneer returns. "Of course you don't. It isn't any business of yours, is it?"
Kisara frowns. "I do live here." She is hesitant to term it that- when was the last time she has lived anywhere, as if it is her home?-, but she has been here for a while now, and Bakura has yet to show any plans of casting her out.
"You don't want to," Bakura drawls, voice idle.
Kisara shrugs lightly. "I've been in worse places."
Bakura laughs. It's still an unpleasant sound, but he seems genuinely amused rather than mocking, which makes it more bearable.
Bakura returns wounded one evening after being away for two days, a nasty slash across his chest. He is tired enough that Kisara brings him to the bed he uses- on a frame, unlike the mattress she uses- in order to tend to it. She cleans the wound and begins to stitch it, her breath in her throat.
This is the first time that she has been close to Bakura in a while, and somehow it feels…different.
Kisara has become unused to being this close to a person who doesn't hurt her, or at least disdain her. Bakura does disdain her, but, as he has made evident in the occasions when he does converse with her, Bakura disdains everything besides himself, his horse, and this village.
Something in her jolts every time her skin brushes against his more than is absolutely necessary. He watches her with knowing eyes, and Kisara decides that she will hate him if he laughs.
When her task is done Kisara stands there uselessly for a minute, unsure of herself.
Bakura, of course, decides that rudeness is the best way past the moment. "Unless you're thinking of staying and making yourself useful, you might as well leave Ore-sama be."
Kisara glares at him and heads for the door, but pauses at it for a moment. "I was worried."
After that, there is a change in Bakura. It isn't subtle, but Kisara can't pin its origins, so it eludes her even so. Every word from him is derisive, now, and whenever he stares at her, Kisara sees in his eyes that he is wondering why he still keeps her here.
Kisara is surprised to find that she feels afraid. That is the problem with finding a home, even a chaotic one such as this: one gains something to be lost.
Is he angry that she refused him that night? She can't decide whether Bakura is the sort of man to force his way or not- a woman is different to a tomb, after all-, so she is left uncertain. Some instinct tells her that if she tried to approach him he would not react well, though.
Gathering up her courage, one day she asks him, "Do you wish me to leave?"
"They'll kill you if you step out the door," Bakura points out.
Kisara has lived life with a foot in death for years now, but in this place she will not walk into it.
It occurs to her later that Bakura, having brought her into the village in the first place, could bring her out again. Why doesn't he?
The spirits do not grow calm around Bakura, but their demeanor changes. They seem…demanding.
Bakura summons a great beast, one with a snake for a tail, and for a moment only, they seem satisfied.
"One shouldn't lurk in doorways in Kul Elna," he calls out, and smirks at her.
"You have a spirit inside of you," Kisara says when he comes inside, brushing past her quickly.
"Not like that."
"Of course not. No one can compete with Ore-sama's Diabound." He peers at her. "But you do have a Kaa of your own that causes trouble, don't you?"
Kisara nods, and can't bring herself to ask how he knows that. "The white dragon…"
"And you can't control it, and are a rather rude foreigner as well…" Bakura laughs shortly. "No wonder you have no home."
"Then this isn't my home?"
After she asks that, Bakura ignores her for the rest of the day. Kisara worries less, though, for she is beginning to understand.
The days continue in a blur, not breaking their pattern.
Bakura leaves and returns. He speaks to her- even if some days it is only to rant at her, for she quietly suspects that even he longs for a willing audience from time to time-, takes meals with her, and even bears her touches when he is injured. But he never initiates it, never touches her. Kisara suspects that the day Bakura touches her will be the day he learns to pretend that it means nothing.
It may never come. Kisara has never been fond of games, and this is one which she is particularly unwilling to play.
"You never wear any of those," Bakura says, perhaps impatient, when he sees her with a box of jewelry.
Kisara shrugs and holds up the necklace to the light. Lapis lazuli.
"Kh. You never make any sense. It isn't as if you could go anywhere with them. Not much of a theft, is it?"
She supposes that that is his version of giving permission.
Kisara places the beads around her neck, careful to keep them from snagging in her hair along the way. She looks at her reflection in polished metal, and finds that the stone suits her.
Kisara has nearly grown used to the unease brought about by living in a village of angry spirits, but tonight their presence presses against her. She can only be grateful that their attention isn't on her.
Sleep eludes her, and eventually she looks outside, morbidly curious.
The spirits rage around Bakura, and he stands within the center of their whirlwind, seeming unafraid. He shouts at them, though, and it takes a moment for her to understand his words. "The Pharaoh will die soon enough! …you've waited this long for our revenge, haven't you?"
When he returns, Kisara doesn't bother pretending to sleep. She stares at him, her questions displayed in her eyes for any who can read them.
Bakura doesn't look at her. "Kul Elna, a village which harbored thieves. When the Pharaoh needed a sacrifice to create the Sennen Items, he sent his men here. Their bodies were used to create the Items."
Kisara looks down.
Bakura leaves again the next day, and Kisara cannot help but wonder if he will return. Each time he leaves, now, she wonders if it will be the last.
He had called himself 'thief king' when first introducing himself, and Kisara is beginning to understand. Bakura is king, not over a kingdom, but over a slain village of thieves, its ghosts killing him, if far more slowly than those who intrude upon it, with their demands for vengeance.
Practicality breeds selfishness, so when she doesn't worry for him, Kisara ponders her own fate. If Bakura abandons her, she will be able to survive in this house for a short while, but soon food will run out. It might be better to step into the streets and face a fast death, if so.
She thinks of offering help, but all she has to offer is a spirit which she cannot control.
She offers it anyway, and Bakura laughs at her. The sound is ugly.
Both the day itself and her time here in general are growing closer to sunset. Kisara understands for the first time why the Remetch believe that the sun sinks into the underworld each day. The difference for her is that she knows there is no one to protect it and help it rise again.
It is late at night when Kisara steels herself and enters Bakura's room, intent on offering help once more. She knows it will do no good, but she will offer.
Bakura is wary. Her footsteps wake him, and before she can react, he has shot out of bed, shoving her against the wall and placing a knife against her skin. A moment later, he snorts. "Were you always this lacking in common sense?" He removes the knife, but doesn't release her.
Her smile is too small a flash to be seen against the dark. "If you think I am now, then I must have always been." Unthinking, Kisara reaches out and touches her fingers to his chest.
"Oh?" His voice is dark and amused. His hand, which had been near her waist, moves to rest on her thigh, and she gasps. "Is this what you're after, then?"
His hand moves closer, the thin fabric of her dress little protection against it. Kisara nods.
Her dress near vanishes, and Kisara gasps again as her bare skin is pressed against his. That is invitation enough, so her hands reach under his robe. She becomes distracted enough by the new sensations that it is a surprise to her when she is shoved onto the bed. Bakura's body moves onto hers, and Kisara gives herself to the night.
It is the first night that Kisara sleeps in Bakura's bed, and she knows that it will be the last.
Bakura rides her out of the village the next day, and leaves her in the desert. Kisara watches him ride away form her, and wonders whether either of them will live for much longer.