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Drops of Milk

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#1: How did Train meet Sven? Set shortly after Train leaves Chronos.

As the icy wind whipped through the narrow, crumbling brick alleyway, the dark shadow that slowly trudged their way through attempted to ignore the insistent rumbling that came from his stomach. The wind continued to blow, its blast tossing plastic wrappers, dry leaves, and assorted misshapen items across the uneven concrete. Worst of all, the wind continued to mess with Train's hair, leaving it resembling a bird's nest, and causing the small bell hanging on the red choker around his neck to ring with each blast of the wind.

Train hid behind a rusted green dumpster, successfully blocking the flow of the wind as he stopped moving.

"I'm so damn hungry," he moaned himself, staring aimlessly at the empty plastic cup that rolled across his line of vision. It had already been two weeks. Two weeks since he had last held onto Saya, and watched the light fade out of her eyes. Two weeks since he decided he had had enough, and walked out of Chronos. Two weeks earlier he had not been expecting to be rummaging through rubbish for food though. It was a bit late, Train thought, to be regretting the spending of his meagre supply of cash within a few days of his dramatic departure from Chronos.

His stomach growled again, insistent, and with the loudest groan yet. Train thought back to the unopened bottle of milk he had triumphantly pulled out from a bin and had devoured on the spot. That was two days ago. Train chanced a peek inside the dumpster he was sheltered behind, but swiftly withdrew his head once he caught sight of the numerous ants and cockroaches that were happily travelling in the interior. He wasn't even going to try.

Train decided that there was only one option left to him - to steal some stomach-filling food. It shouldn't be that hard - after all, he had been an infamous Eraser, he was the Black Cat, and what would be so hard about breaking into someone's house and grabbing something to eat?

Decision made, Train waited for the wind blasting through the alleyway to calm down before stepping out from the protection of the dumpster. Crushing the lone cockroach that dared to cross his path, Train stuck to the shadows as much as he could, passing through the maze of silent streets and alleys. He dismissed the homes with shattered, musty windows, and avoided the alleyways where the loud, harsh noises of yelling indicated that they were populated by thugs. After approximately an hour of eliminating various dwellings for a closer inspection, Train finally sighted a small home that showed recent signs of life. The door of the home was firmly locked shut and didn't look as if it had been clawed by a wild beast. The nearest window also wasn't covered by dust so thick that sunlight would struggle to shine through. These signs indicated that someone probably lived, or at least visited the home recently. This also probably meant that there was food inside.

Moving his head slightly, Train quickly inspected his surroundings to ensure that he was completely alone before casually slamming his elbow through the nearest window. The glass shattered without resistance, falling to the ground with a soft twinkle. Train slid in through the window once he had made a hole large enough to shimmy through, paying extra attention to ensure that the remaining glass did not tear at his clothing. New clothing had been a necessity that had eaten a large chunk of Train's remaining money during the first few days on the run from Chronos as he did not wish to wear his old outfit ever again. It would be a massive blow if his new, carefully selected outfit got torn in his pursuit for food.

Train landed lightly onto the balls of his feet, grateful that there was no obstacle near the window to be stepped on that would alert any possible inhabitants to his presence. He stood for several seconds, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness before carefully surveying his surroundings. Train was immediately drawn to his immediate left, where he could see the tell-tale outlines of objects found primarily in a kitchen - stove tops, stoves, discarded cups. There was one sound in particular that nearly made his heart stop in excitement - the gentle, consistent hum of a refrigerator. 

Train was so drawn to the refrigerator he was not even aware of when he had started moving towards it. Ten, nine, eight, seven....with every step, Train felt salvation for his stomach growing closer and closer. He grabbed the cool, metallic handle of the refrigerator and pulled it open without hesitation, admiring the sight that appeared before his eyes. Food! The fridge was full of it! Various bottles dominated the door of the refrigerator, with the entire top row consisting of his beloved beverage, milk. Vegetables and fruit dominated the insides of the fridge, many still wrapped within plastic bags.

Train grabbed the first bottle of milk that he saw, opening the lid roughly and downing the entire bottle in several gulps. With each gulp, he felt rivers of relief sooth his parched, dry throat. This was probably as close to heaven as he could get whilst alive. Train reached for a second milk bottle, gripping the bottle tightly as he attempted to unscrew the lid, but was distracted by the sound of a slow creak to his right.

Train slammed the fridge door shut, carefully setting the now-opened milk bottle on the nearby table with his left hand, and drawing out Hades with his right. A dark silhouette approached him carefully, also armed with a gun that was aimed directly at Train. 

"What are you doing in my house?" the figure asked, his voice irritated as his aim remained true towards Train. Analysing the figure's posture and clear confidence holding his gun, Train knew he was facing no amateur. Train's irritation rose at the realisation that his hunger had distracted him to the presence of someone else in this house. The last time that Train had been that careless, it had ended with a lot of blood, injuries, and pain on his behalf.

Train was blinded momentarily by the sudden burst of light that flooded the room from the kitchen light that had just been turned on. Once the dark spots in his vision had faded, he had a good view of the figure that still had his gun aimed at him. He was slightly taller than Train, and wearing a hat that covered the majority of his lime-green hair. Of particular interest to Train was the eye patch that obscured his right eye, as well as the neatly tailored suit he wore. Train's stomach decided that this was also the opportune moment to let out the loudest groan of the day, causing Green-Hair in front of him to give him an interested expression and lower his gun slightly.

"I'm hungry, okay?" Train let out in a whine, lowering Hades slightly in response. "I haven't eaten in ageeeeees...."

Green-Hair gave him a disbelieving expression as Train's stomach grumbled in agreement to his statement. The next second his expression looked thoughtful, as he continued to analyse Train. After several seconds, he lowered his gun completely, his expression more curious than frightened.

"You wouldn't happen to be a Sweeper, would you?" he finally asked. Train observed that whilst Green-Hair looked relaxed that he would be able to aim and fire his gun immediately should Train make the wrong move. Train perked up at the question.

"I intend to be," Train replied, sliding Hades back into his holster in an attempt to make himself less threatening. "Once I get fed that is. There was no waaaay I could go for bounties when I'm starving to death." With his thoughts returning to food, Train had to resist the urge to reopen the fridge and clear it out. This conversation was by no means plugging up the black hole that was his stomach.

“Oh. I’m Sven. Sven Vollfied. I’m a Sweeper,” Sven replied, pulling out a cigarette from a pocket from his coat and lighting it. He took a deep breath, letting the smoke fill his lungs before continuing. “You can help yourself to the fridge as long as you pay me back, okay?” 

“I have a better idea,” Train said, feeling excited as he was finally able to open the fridge door and pull out another bottle of milk. He chugged this bottle down with the same speed as the first, then turned towards the other bottle he had opened earlier lying on the table nearby. "Do you want to pair up?" he asked Sven, in-between gulps of his third bottle of milk.

“What!?” Sven didn't know whether or not he should be horrified at the sudden suggestion.

“Like, be Sweepers together,” Train said, dramatically finishing the third bottle of milk and resting the empty bottle on the table, looking through the fridge for his fourth.

“That’s a great idea – wait that milk’s expired!” Sven yelled in horror, eying the empty bottles lying on the table, and the bottle that Train was currently chugging down.

“Huh?” Train only replied after he finished consuming the current bottle that he was on. As Sven's outburst registered in his mind, he felt his stomach grumble, but with a different ache to the one that had been his constant companion the past few days. And for the first time in days, the primary focus on his mind was no longer to fill his stomach, but to find the damn toilet already. Was it even legal for his stomach to suddenly feel as if it wanted to eat itself?

Sven grimaced as he pointed to a door further within his house. Train did not stop to thank him but instead stormed past him towards the toilet, slamming the door shut as he let out a sigh of relief. Sven really wasn't sure if his day could get any worse.

As the minutes passed, silence only broken with the occasional sigh of relief from Train, a sudden question sprung in Sven's mind.

“You in the toilet? What’s your name? And why should I agree to work with you?”

Sitting on the toilet seat, Train remained silent for several seconds. "I'm Train. Train Heartnet." Train's thoughts continued to whir as he pondered whether or not to tell Sven he was the Black Cat, weighing up the relative pros and cons of such as revelation. However, Saya's face suddenly forced itself to the forefront of his mind, reminding Train of who he wanted to be, and not who he used to be. If he was going to be a Sweeper with Sven, his history as the Black Cat was not something that could be avoided. "I used to be the Black Cat. But he died and was reborn as a stray."

"The Black Cat?" Even someone living under a rock had heard of Chronos' infamous Black Cat, who apparently had been killed sometime within the last two weeks. Was Sven supposed to believe that the starving idiot who had drunk several bottles of expired milk was the same Black Cat who had taken countless lives with his bullets?

"Unfortunately, I was," Train whispered in Sven's ear, making him jump as he had no warning of the ex-assassin's reappearance in the kitchen. Train suddenly released some bloodlust, relaxing once he noted Sven's sudden stiffening at the sensation. At the very least, he had gotten the message across to Sven that he was no weak amateur. Train felt a smile appear on his face as he returned to the fridge, surveying its contents. There was one final question on his mind as he turned back towards Sven.

"Before I eat anymore, is there anything else expired that I should be made aware of?"

Sven walked towards Train, taking a closer look at the fridge contents and grimacing after looking through several items. "The vegetables have gone off." He rummaged through a few more items, heart sinking. "Oh, so has the fruit." 

“What!” Train’s stomach grumbled in response. This couldn't be. He really needed to eat.