Running was life. Hiding too.
They were the only things he remembered. In his mind, it was all he had ever done.
It was always dark. He was afraid of the darkness and yet glad for it because it helped him to hide. It was also always wet, and the living stone that made up the walls, floor and sky was always covered with moss. The muffled wetness silenced his footsteps.
He shivered in the cold air. He was always cold. He had no shirt, and he was barefoot. He wore the ratty, tattered remnants of a hakama that had once been white. It did little more than preserve what pitiful dignity he had left, and certainly offered him no warmth.
Staying small and silent, he crouched as he made his way through a narrow corridor. There was light coming from somewhere. He was fearful of light, because light usually meant people, and people usually meant him harm. Still, he had survived this long by peeking in on strange lights. Sometimes his broken mind could understand if he could associate the people with kindness. Sometimes there were people who were gentle and offered him food and a chance to get warm.
The tunnel he crept through dipped low, revealed below that there was indeed a fire and just two people sitting near it, kindling it dry, dead moss and bits of wood. They seemed to have a little dwelling there as well. A deep groove in the stone, like a cave. He saw rags and tattered blankets folded neatly inside.
The occupants of the area were an old man and woman, who, unlike him, were dressed warmly, even if their clothes were badly worn out. He found that he remembered them. His shattered thoughts came together for a moment, helping him remember these two had showed him kindness on several occasions.
Taking a deep breath, he moved cautiously toward them.
The old woman saw him first, and smiled gently at him. "Look, Daisuke. It's the boy again. He's come back."
The man turned. The sudden movement made him want to turn and run back down the corridor where he had come, but the woman called to him in a gentle voice, evidently having dealt with him many times before.
"No, Boy. It's all right. Look." Moving slowly to avoid frightening him, she stooped over her fire and picked up a dry hunk of old bread and held it out so he could see. "We have a lot extra today, Son. I have an egg I could boil for you as well. Come on, it's okay."
He moved toward her hesitantly. He was afraid, as always, but the fear lessened as he found her more and more familiar. He reached out and took the bread from her hand.
He was very, very hungry. Instinct screamed at him. He wanted to cram the bread into his mouth to ease the pain of hunger, and the weakness and dizziness that came with it, and so that the woman wouldn't have time to change her mind and take the food back.
For some reason, though, he hesitated again. He looked at the stale hunk of bread in his hands, and then back at the woman, and flicked his gaze to the man, Daisuke, then back to the bread again. These people had so very little, and they were offering their food to him. Somehow, he felt like he didn't deserve their kindness.
He sucked in his bottom lip, damming up tears, as he very carefully tore off a small piece of the bread and held out the larger piece back to the woman.
She shook her head, looking back at him. "No. No, Boy. We have plenty. We have enough to share with you. Please take it."
He realized she was looking like she might cry. He was confused, but he certainly didn't want to make the kind woman feel bad. Slowly he placed some of the dry bread in his mouth and was rewarded with a smile. He couldn't help but to smile back, glad that he had made her happy.
He fell asleep by their warm fire, and when he woke while they still slept in their little cave he crept away, not wishing to lead those who chased him straight to the kind old couple.
A few hours later, hiding in the darkness, he forgot about them once again. He could only hold onto the memories he needed to survive: run and hide.