The Gunslinger fled to the forest and the Kunoichi followed.
Ryan had his fair share of strange company, he thought he hit the jackpot sharing a mine-cart with an old prospect looking to cash in on the gold rush everyone’s been clawing at. Prickly white hair like a cactus, matching beard almost as long as his lanky body, eyes like pin needles darting back and forth in his sockets, the smell of whiskey on his breath, and a constant twitch dressed in the ugliest brown colored shawl he ever laid witness.
He was quite the mess that old prospect, wonder if he found his skull sized nugget of gold he always clambered on about?
Focusing on the present, Ryan turned around to the group behind and figured, these ladies beat him by a mile and a half.
Only easier on the eyes.
The two Nekomata children stuck to each other like glue, and looking like a kitten hugging a mirror dressed in what looked like white sheets with shoulder straps. The Tykes couldn’t be any older than ten, granted it was only a guess. Ryan did notice that every couple of lines of their tongue during their whispers, the two would often meow like actual cats. Unfortunately Ryan always had a dog, and he could practically understand them just from barks alone; he didn’t know a thing about cats.
The adult Shirohebi’s skin and snake’s tail had him thinking back to the prospect…shame since she was much prettier than him. Too bad about her red, and white robes as they were torn to near bits; Ryan figured at one point she looked fairly elegant in it. The girl was barely able to cover her tall petite frame, but didn’t seem to bothered by her lack of decency. Pleasantly enough her narrow body was holding onto the weight of a modestly large pair of breasts which Ryan was wondering if that’s where all the food she ate was heading. The gunslinger noticed the woman had a particular interest in him, almost always staring at him more so than the others…was she keeping an eye on him? Did she not trust the stranger? Ryan wasn’t sure.
Then there was the Inari dressed in a similar, cleaner, white, and red kimono. Her composure and stance made her seem like a well off noble-woman; only without a dime to her name, but Ryan could respect keeping yourself tall, and standing even in the worst of states. The girl also had this habit of stroking and brushing her tails…as if looking pretty was the first, and most important thing to do.
Ever since he rescued them from whatever god forbid fate they were going to face, they stuck around him like a gun on a sheriff. Figured they were grateful, but he couldn’t understand a lick of what they were saying, and neither could them by the sound of it so the trip was quiet…save for the whispering they kept to each other.
Ryan didn’t think too much of that, he never did care what others thought of him so he let them go at it. All he could do is guess as to what they were talking about, but it didn’t take half of a brain to know they were mostly talking about him.
One of the little Nekomata tykes decided to work up the courage and approached the Gunslinger.
He could hear the other sister hiss at her, possibly beckoning her to come back, but she didn’t heed her warning. Ryan could hear her padded cat legs scampering closer, and closer towards him.
Ryan didn’t take too kindly to being approached from behind all of a sudden, couldn’t help it. Where he was from, if someone was at your back; it was usually with a knife, or a gun pressed to your spine. His hand twitched to his holster but he forced his instincts back before he could even touch his gun, and decided to let her do her thing.
Whatever it took to calm their nerves, it would certainly make traveling with them easier.
Ryan stopped walking causing the Nekomata to bump into him, and stare up nervously, Ryan turned his head; his back still facing her.
The gunslinger simply nodded his head.
The Nekomata stammered something in her native tongue and leaned in real close, and gave him a whiff. Her nose twitched once, twice, then three times before she was satisfied. She stared back at the Gunslinger but with a small smile on her face before retreating back to her twin to report her findings.
Their voices were louder, they weren’t even trying to hide what they were saying, but soon afterward the second two tailed cat-girl approached the Gunslinger and gave him a whiff. Ryan went back to his days as a rancher’s kid, and remembered how curious he was about everything, drove his dad nuts with all his questions. He reckoned this was how their kind wanted to know something better. Ryan had to admit that would save a lot of trouble as he recalled how much he annoyed his dad with dumb questions back when he was young.
Ryan finally turned himself around, and crouched down to see the Nekomata square in the eye, the poor thing nearly jumped back, her paws clasped together before Ryan plopped his hat on her head.
Obviously being a few sizes too big, the thing almost swallowed her head entirely. She pushed the cowboy hat up to look at him, and was met with a small grin from the Gunslinger. The two tailed cat child grinned back, and excitedly rushed back to her sister with hat in tow so the two can sniff, and look to their little hearts content. Ryan rose up and glanced at the two women, both of them sounding relieved and sharing smiles of their own, the Shirohebi nodded her head in approval and that was all Ryan needed to know.
The trip was still quiet, but at least the atmosphere was less tense.
Soon the party came across a fork in the road, Ryan recalled this split in the path and turned left back to the town he was in, but a sudden cry from one of the girls caused him to stop, and turn around. He didn’t know what the Inari said, but it was obvious she wanted his attention.
The two tailed Inari spoke out and motioned her hands to the right, her hand gestures were as difficult to translate as her language.
“I still can’t understand a lick of what you’re saying lady” Ryan replied.
The two tailed fox girl stares at Ryan until she was jabbed by the white snake tailed girl who started speaking to her, perhaps reminding her of the language barrier they are facing.
To help with her case the two tykes now sharing his hat on both their heads, tug at his coat with smiles brighter than the sun and pointed to the right. Ryan slowly pointed to the right as well raising an eyebrow, and both the Inari and Shirohebi nodded quickly.
They really wanted him to go that way, but Ryan didn’t think too much on it.
“Fine with me, ain’t nothin’ for me back there anyways” Ryan replied.
They still couldn’t understand him, but once they see him turning to the right and heading towards the path they’ve chosen their smiles returned, and they quickly followed.
Perhaps it was the wider path, or the new-found trust they shared, but now they were traveling side by side with one another.
The girls mutters were turning into genuine conversation, and while Ryan’s patience has been tried, and tested in many saloons, and poker games that took way-way too long; the blatant openness of their chatter was starting to get to him. He already felt pretty isolated as it is.
“(This better have some reasoning)” Ryan thought to himself.
Almost at once their conversations ceased, and the Shirohebi was the first to motion for the gunslinger’s attention.
He raised an eyebrow, and nodded to the snake-woman to explain herself.
She pointed her finger at herself and started to repeat two words.
“Shiroi Yuri” she said.
“She-what’s it?” Ryan was baffled at first, but he wasn’t an idiot.
It was obvious she was introducing herself…or he had a gut feeling about it. Problem was he never had to twist his tongue like that, not even while singing…and that event was rarer than sighting a Jackalope.
Ryan was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a quitter. As the Shirohebi repeated her name, the Gunslinger sounded it out as best as he could.
“That’s a name? If you insist uh…Shi~roi…Yuri?” Ryan repeated in his rustic southern drawl.
The Shirohebi smiled and clapped her hands, Ryan felt like he was being treated like some kid, but he took the compliment regardless. Knowing their names could come in handy, especially if they came across trouble.
“Shiroi then right? Fine, I’ll call you that” Ryan agreed.
The Gunslinger was even more confused at her reaction. It’s like something about being called by their first name was somehow…embarrassing? Shiroi was spouting up a storm of words until the fox woman approached her, and tried to calm her down. Probably explaining something to her until eventually Shiroi settled herself down.
The fox woman mimic Shiroi’s motions, and pointed at herself before speaking.
“Yasashi Hoyo” the fox woman introduced herself
Another tough one, Ryan wasn’t planning on learning their language, and names were a part of it. Still though they’re the only ones who actually give a damn about him in this land. So he figured why not give it a shot?
“You gotta be kidding me…alright then…Ya~sa~shi?…Hoyo” the Gunslinger repeated with a slur. “Alright, Yasashi, I think I got it” Ryan assured.
The fox woman looked at him, and for a moment he thought she would go through the same ordeal as her snake friend, but instead she gave him this grin…this almost knowing smile that she understood at least a trickle of how things are done in his part of the world.
Suddenly the two kittens were bouncing up and down in front of Ryan. Both of them appeared rather excited to point at themselves with furry paws, and introduce themselves.
“Yume” The Nekomata bouncing on the right squealed.
“Ai!” The Nekomata bouncing on the left squeaked.
“There we go, that’s more like it! Yume, Ai! I’ll remember yours no problem” Ryan was pleased with the easy to say names.
The tykes had no clue what Ryan was saying, but hearing him say their names, and so excitedly too was enough for them to bounce, and cheer even more so.
Now the girls were all pointing fingers at the Gunslinger; all of them silently waiting for him to respond.
“…I guess fair is fair…” the Gunslinger figured as he pointed at himself. “Ryan” He spoke.
Immediately all four girls are baffled, and the noises coming out of their mouths were…amusing, but nowhere near sounding like his name.
“(Aw come on now, four letters and you’re struggling…well guess I’m stranger than I thought I was, better help them out)” Ryan thought.
However his help was not needed, Shiroi was the first to pronounce his name correctly-except for the part where she said -san at the end, but close enough. Soon Yasashi did the same also including that last -san part, and so did the kids, practically singing it repeatedly. Ryan glanced back at the two ladies, and he notice the fox was smiling rather wide before whispering something to her friend the snake. Shiroi reacting to it awfully quick, and once again the gunslinger was unsure of what they were trying to say…all he knew was that it must have been funny cause everyone else was laughing at her reaction, the two tykes now chanting away with ‘Shiroi’ then ‘Ryan’ back to back.
It was almost enough to make him learn the language just to know what was so funny about two people calling each other by their first names here.
Having dawdled enough, and the stars now starting to appear in the sky it was obvious that night was going to be upon them. They had to keep moving, or at the very least find a decent spot to camp out for the night.
Their travels took them to a remote area just outside the path where the group decided to make a camp.
The field was relatively empty, composed of both smooth stone, and dirt littered with leaves from the trees to the right side. Besides the occasional cricket the area was relatively silent save for the gentle rippling of water from the nearby river to the left. Ryan could see the river starting to snake alongside the path they were traveling on meaning fresh water was now in abundance, and easy to reach. He couldn’t help, but wonder if the people took this river for granted as he recalled many thirsty days traveling along the scorching desert.
Light was quickly fading from them, and thus there was no use wandering in pitch darkness, trail or no trail. Ryan set up a campfire while the two women made quick work igniting a flame using magic as he tried to find his flint and blade.
“(So that’s what they call ‘magic’ ’round these parts? Don’t take too kindly to it if you ask me)” Ryan thought.
He decided next time he’ll show these girls how to make a real flame with the flint he carries around.
He sat on his hindquarters staring at water when he heard splashing coming from the river. He turned only slightly to see the twins swiping away at the river.
“(What are them tykes square dancing at?)” Ryan wondered.
He watched them go at it for a bit until he spotted one of the kids gripping something in her paw. The two cheer and quickly retreat to Ryan to present it to him.
“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” Ryan was impressed to see the fish they just caught.
He took the fish and plopped it on a flat piece of jutting rock beside him as it gasped it’s last breath, and he turned to the kids.
“You tykes keep catching dinner like this, and I got half a mind to raise ya myself” Ryan was grateful.
The girls merely tilted their heads in confusion, and Ryan sighed knowing they had no idea of the praise he just gave them. So instead he opted to just petting their heads and giving them a quick grin and that was good enough for them. He could hear them purring, and their smiles were ever so wider and they quickly returned to the river to catch more fish.
Brandishing his hunting knife he went to work gutting the fish. Granted he never had to gut a fish before, but he’s disemboweled large game quite well in the past so this small fish shouldn’t be a problem.
While the two women watched Ryan intently, he was suddenly lost in his own thoughts for the first time since coming here. The atmosphere felt so familiar to home, camping outside with a fire in front of him, the smell of dinner ready to be gutted and cooked. Ryan felt a compulsion to indulge in this feeling by bringing the only bit of familial culture he could indulge himself in.
As he pierced the fish and let it sit over the fire he stared into the starry sky of millions of stars, and began to whistle a tune from his home. It was a slow, somber whistling that spoke of long, hot, dry days. The struggle to survive in a new unforgiving land with new unforgiving people, but with a glimmer of hope that each day lived is another sign of hope, prosperity, and longevity for the future. Each note felt like it was playing for an eternity before the next one took over, it was a song he learned as a child, and sung to him by many people.
First from his father, and mother, then he heard it years later when his brother was on his last breath. blood dribbling from his mouth as he grinned at Ryan one more time before falling victim to the bullet wounds on his chest. It wouldn’t be the first time a dying man sang it to him either, a man he once called his ‘amigo’ sang it as he was dying of illness. Lastly the Sheriff who gave him a second chance before he sacrificed himself for the good of the town, the law of the land, and to keep the oath of a Sheriff to protect the people. Speaking of which; Ryan was wondering how the new guy was holding up, the deputy who was fresh from becoming a boy to a man. Ryan had hoped he slew plenty of gang-members in his escape, but a side of him couldn’t help, but worry for the young deputy now sheriff.
Once the song was over, and his mind came back to the present he heard the faint sound of clapping coming from the four girls accompanying him. Seeing the applause Ryan couldn’t help but smile and nod, it was almost enough to make a man blush.
As the group began to dig in to their cooked fish, a shadow darker than the night stalk them from a distance. The Kunoichi; invisible to the naked eye she observes them closely, the Gunslinger captivated her to no end.
He was strong, quick, exotic, and dangerous. Surely if he had been raised in her clan he would make for a great ally.
Her mission was to take the bloated man who kidnapped and ransom the four hostages, and to ‘assassinate’ him. Though knowing his fate when he returns to his bosses empty-handed, and his payment well spent, his punishment will already be set. Now her mind is set on the Gunslinger; his tactics, his weapons, and skills, all must be recorded and used to benefit her clan, but mostly and secretly to benefit herself.
She had watched his actions with great curiosity, seeing his hand itch to his weapon when even a child approaches him from behind tells her an attack from the rear is out of the question. What has this man endured to keep his rear guard so well trained? Then again seeing him smile at the children, and gifted them with his headgear told her he still had a soft side to him. She couldn’t deny that seeing his grin made her cold mind, and body melt if only for an instant.
She quickly shook the thought out of her head, and she resumed her review. hearing him speak in his native tongue was troubling, unable to know what he was saying, and realizing how rarely he talks as well would complicate things. Once more she had to confess to herself, the drawl in his voice sent ripples to her body. His foreign tongue echoing in a tone unfamiliar, and yet so bold, and rough. Her mind drifts of thoughts of hearing him up close whispering close to her ear soft words of-
“(Stop it! You’re more disciplined than that!)” She loudly scolded herself.
She cursed this new body formed from the Demon Lord’s decree, it may have gifted her with superhuman strength, and speed, but it had also afflicted her mind with strong lust and desires. Fighting the urges were easy when it came to her original target, even a Succubus would have to drink a bottle of sake or two to consider bedding a kidnapper like him.
This new target however; was something else entirely.
Someone, tall, rugged, with eyes sharper than daggers, and yet the green of his eyes were so vivid and beautiful. His hair looking like gold caked in dirt, his outfit looked just as tough as him, and hiding a treasure she longed for.
The Kunoichi quickly snapped herself out of it, none of this information would be helpful to the clan. If anything it will drive even more of her members to attempt to steal him for their own. She had enough trouble with that as it is, looking at the company he shared. If her feelings were drifting so close to perverse and vivid imaginations. Then she could only imagine the fantasies swirling around the heads of the two women he was traveling with as they gaze deeply at their hero.
She was unsure whether the Gunslinger knew he was being stared at so intently, or simply didn’t care.
The Kunoichi continued her observations waiting till the dead of night when they have fallen asleep to attempt her strike.
Ryan watched as Yume, and Ai struggled to keep themselves awake after spending all night splashing, hunting, eating, and cleaning themselves. Yasashi also on the verge of sleep utilized her tails to keep the children and herself warm. The kids snug closely to her bosom as her tails engulfed them in fluffy comfort, acting as a makeshift blanket.
Unfortunately Shiroi had more difficulties falling asleep, try as she might her body shivered from the cold. She threw several more blocks of wood, and dry leaves on the campfire, and even bundled herself up in her own tail to keep herself warm, but it was not enough.
“(Wonder why she don’t build herself a little hole to slither on inside like a real snake?)” Ryan wondered.
Ryan was starting to feel bad seeing the half-naked snake woman trembling like the rattle on a rattlesnake, and figured she could use some hospitality. He yanked his trench coat off himself and approached Shiroi who stared up at him with wide eyes before he draped his coat on her.
“Figured you could use the extra skin” Ryan grinned at the woman.
The Shirohebi stared longingly at him as the heat trapped inside the coat from Ryan’s body gave her the added warmth she craved, and she sighed with relief, her shaking ceased.
“Arigato” she whispered.
Yup still couldn’t understand a thing, but Ryan tried to guess as to what she just said, and responded in kind.
“You’re uh~ welcome?” Ryan figured.
The Shirohebi contemplated what he said for a moment before a smile drew on her face, and she gave him a brief bow.
“(First time someone dropped their head at me like that…hope it’s good news)” Ryan thought to himself as the snake woman said nothing more and drifted off to sleep.
The Kunoichi watching all this had to wait several more hours as Ryan took this time to keep watch all on his own, it wasn’t until the sun was on the verge of rising did he finally find time to sleep himself, and with the darkness quickly dissipating she had to work quick to put her plan into motion.
As silent as the forest she darted to the campfire and pulled out a small bronze locket nestled in between her breasts, it’s contents filled with a deep red liquid.
A secret passed down by her clan, a special paint to coat one’s lips to perform a jutsu to rob a man of his knowledge. With just one kiss she’ll know everything he does, including his strengths and weaknesses.
She pulled the cloth out of her mouth and dressed her lips in the special concoction, now coated in the ruby red lipstick she crawled silently towards Ryan’s sleeping figure sitting up behind a jutting boulder. But as she drew closer to the gunslinger her instincts began to race, she suddenly began fearing for her life.
She looked down, and saw his hand squeezing the handle of his weapon.
She cursed in her thoughts, even in slumber the man’s guard was still high, she was certain once he felt a foreign presence on his lips he won’t hesitate to unleash his wrath. Even if she could paralyze him with one of her needles or poisons he would react much faster than her venom.
She still remembers the fight they just had, his reflexes faster than lighting, and rivaling her speed. This method will not work either, she would have to try something new to learn the secrets in his heart.
Suddenly she heard someone stirring from the rest of the group, and she quickly moved away as silently as ever. The Kunoichi had narrowly avoided getting spotted by Shiroi who stirred awake just as she found a dark corner to disappear into.
Shiroi glances left and right, the scene was the same as she last saw it, but her nose twitched with the smell of something different. Her nose told her it came close to the man who rescued her, someone was here that much was certain but she couldn’t pinpoint where they went as the wind had scattered their smell almost as quickly as she sensed it. She pushed the thought aside and stared back at the Gunslinger, her eyes lidded, her cheeks growing warm and pink as she snuggled and whiffed at the coat he so generously offered, warming her and her heart so efficiently.
She remembered the shrine they will soon be returning to, people coming to and fro to pray, be blessed, and stare in awe at the beautiful sights and women priestess working there. Yet in all her years not one man has ever paid her any more than a glimpse, they favored the softer, fluffier embrace of the fox girls parading the shrine. She couldn’t bare hate her sisters for this, but she couldn’t help but be jealous, and gloomy at the thought of being robbed of so much male attention. Her womb was begging to be drowned in male spirit, and bear offspring while she remained young, but no suitors would approach her.
As if her luck couldn’t get any worse she and a fellow sister had been kidnapped, she put up a strong fight igniting more than her fair share of thugs, but she was soon overcome. And out of the darkness of uncertainty he came, a man with a foreign tongue, and big heart to her rescue.
She knew her heart and soul already belong to him, she couldn’t help it. His rescue was a testament to his skills, and honor and last night was the most romantic moment in her life. When he opened up to her with a language everyone can understand: music. His treatment of the orphaned children had showed her he was already trained to be a father for her young, and the gift of his coat demonstrated his kindness even to someone like herself who he never shared a single conversation with.
Her heart raced at the mere thought of proposing to him, if she had to learn a whole new language to tell him then so be it. She has already swore to go to any lengths to make him her husband.