Can't talk. Must write, before I loose the idea.
Disclaimer:I don't own Hunter X Hunter. I just have an annoying muse who makes me write things at 4 in the morning.
One thing could be said about this place: It stank of death.
The Hunter wrinkled his nose a bit, dropping his composure just the slightest in his privacy. The putrid odors of fire, blood and rot hovered over this place like a rancid fog, a tad bit stale, indicating that some time had passed between the deaths in question and his present time.
This had once been a small town, and the gray stone walls that had guarded it were still somewhat standing. However, every building had been burned to the ground, staining the dirt black with dark ash. Dark, dried blood stained everything in sight, except for the graves.
The graves seamed to be the only things touched since this massacre had occurred. Dozens of them stretched over the hill, each mound denoted by a wooden cross and a flower. He noted these as he moved between them silently. These flowers must have come from at least a mile away, since they had obviously been laid fresh and everything short of that mark had been killed. The only question was, who would have so much dedication as to…
A sudden change in the grim monotone caught his eye. Not too far from him, at the very end of the mounds, there was a tall tree, completely black and charred down to almost a twig, that had managed to keep itself standing despite everything. And curled beneath it, there seamed to be something…blue.
As he drew closer, he soon saw that the blue 'thing' was actually a small child, no older than eleven, wrapped tightly in a frayed, dirtied blue robe. The poor thing was covered from head to toe in dust, ash and dried blood, so much so that it was hard to tell at first glance if he was male or female. His hair was several inches longer than shoulder length and he assumed it was blonde as it looked light gray with the thick layer of soot. His soiled, wounded hands were clutching a tattered old bag and a strange weapon that seamed to be two swords attached with a short length of chain. Streaks of gleaming saltwater had cut shallow paths through the thick layer of ash on his face.
The first thing the Hunter did as he came to the child's side was press two fingers to his throat. He discovered a shallow pulse and, upon closer examination, a series of ragged breaths, but other than that the child did not look well. His skin was cold, pale and clammy, but his face raged with fever, and he shook helplessly with every breath.
The Hunter wasted no time, lifting the small form into his arms. The figure shifted slightly and, for a moment, a sleepy head turned up to look at him with wide, half-open aqua green eyes, darkened with pain and unbelievable sadness.
The man gave him a soft smile. "You're going to be all right."
Small hands curled into the cloth of his jacked as the head dropped back again, into the painful bliss of unconsciousness. The Hunter sighed softly, making his way out of the broken iron gates and straight to the first inn he could find.
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
Fire blazed around him, hot and fierce, tinted red by the same blood that covered every inch of him. Screams and crying echoed through the air, accompanied by the sickening sounds of swords slicing through flesh, necks being broken, and unseeing eyes being dug out of their sockets.
He fought his way through the flames desperately, stumbling through the rubble as the cheers and screams grew closer and closer. His slippered foot caught on something in the ground, sending him crashing to the ground. He turned and looked up at the flying banner of a twelve-legged spider as a deep, evil laugh filled the air…
The little blonde boy burst awake with a cry of both pain and fear, throwing the heavy covers of the bed off as he struggled to get away from his nightmares. Almost instantly, a pair of big, strong hands grabbed him by the wrist and shoulder, forcing him back to the bed firmly, but not quite hard enough to really hurt.
"Calm down." A deep, unfamiliar voice hissed. The boy kicked and struggled hard, trying desperately to wrench away from his attacker. "It's all right. I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. You're going to be fine."
The boy took in a stuttered sob but let his body go limp from exhaustion. He lay there, alternating between frustrated sobs and gasping for breath as the stranger pulled the blankets back over him, tucking them under his chin.
"That's better." The man whispered, brushing his bangs back from his forehead and applying a cold rag. He lifted the boy's head gently with one hand, guiding a small dish to his lips with the other. "Here. Drink. It's water."
The child suddenly realized just how thirsty he was and gulped down the offering thankfully. The man lower his head back onto the pillow, setting him down gently. "There you go. Just take it easy."
The boy looked up at him and blinked blurrily. "Who…Who are you?"
"A Hunter." The man smiled softly, waving something flat that the child could only assume was his license. "…Can you tell me who you are?"
"…Kurapika." The child mumbled, already snuggling back into the soft mattress as darkness tugged at his eyelids. "My name is…Kuruta…Kurapika…"
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
The next day was the first time Kurapika had eaten something solid in at least a week, and it showed. All manners were forgotten in the desperation to get something with substance into his poorly-deprived body. The Hunter didn't say anything about his rudeness, simply sat by his bedside and waited patiently until the eleven-year-old had finished.
Washing it all down with a glass of water, Kurapika felt strangely content as he settled back against the headboard with a small sigh. At a young age, there is very little a full stomach can't find a cure for, even if it is only for a short time.
The Hunter smiled very softly as he put away the dishes, then cleared his throat, leaning forward. "Kurapika." He said, with the air of one trying to softly break some kind of terrible news. "I don't mean to trouble you, but I must ask…Do you remember what happened to you before you were here?"
There was a sharp pang in the child's heart, images flashing before his eyes. Blood…fire…twelve-legged spider…dead crimson eyes, staring up at the knife as it came down…
He shuddered softly, but nodded. "Y-Yes…"
The Hunter's voice was gentle. "That village…Did you live there?"
"…Can you tell me what happened?"
Kurapika closed his eyes, feeling small pricks of painful tears beginning to swell up behind him at the thought. He forced himself to be calm, trying desperately to keep his voice even as he spoke hesitantly.
"They…They started banging on the gate, late at night…" He whispered very, very softly. "Mama…Mama told me to run…She slipped me out of the walls…Everyone else stayed behind…There was a…a hollow tree…I stayed in…Then they…they came in and…"
He cut off with a short sob, tears falling from his cheeks and onto the sheets, now clutched in his small fists. The hunter was quiet a moment, keeping his mouth shut until the sobs had quieted, waiting patiently before he spoke again.
"I don't know." Kurapika shook his head. "I don't know…They had a…a spider-flag. With twelve…twelve legs…"
The Hunter nodded in understanding, taking a deep breath through his nose. He leaned back in his chair, turning his head to look out the window, ushering in a long moment of silence. The only sounds in the room were the wind rushing through the open window and the bustling of the inn commons down the stairs. Then the hunter spoke again.
"The twelve-legged spider…That group is infamous." He clicked his tongue slightly. "They have a lot of different names…the Genei Ryodan…the Phantom Troupe…But most often they are called the Spiders, as you have seen. They're a gang of bandits, robbers and murderers who go after rare treasures and kill anyone who gets in their way…"
"I'll kill them."
The Hunter looked back. The little boy was furiously rubbing tears away from his red…in all manner of description…eyes, and expression between rage and sorrow wreathing his now-clean features. "I'll kill them." he was sobbing. "I'll kill them, I'll kill them all…"
The Hunter didn't react, turning his head back to look out the window again. "The Spiders are a Class A bounty." He said softly. "Highly dangerous, no one's ever even been able to take one of them…"
"I don't care!" Kurapika snapped, looking up with blazing, tear-filled scarlet eyes. "I'll get them, every last one! I'll destroy them, I swear, I'll get them, and I'll get them all back…I'll get them back…"
The Hunter was quiet another long moment, then stood, shaking his head softly. He put a hand on Kurapika's shoulder an ruffled the boy's hair. "Get some sleep. You're still too ill to be out of bed."
The little boy sniffed but lay down as he was told, pulling the covers up to his chin in despondency. The Hunter closed the curtains, dropping the room into almost no light, making his way out the door and back to the rest of the inn.
"Class A bounties are impossible…and illegal…for a normal person to go after." he said, pausing in the door to look back at the already half-asleep child. "To go after them…you'd have to be a Hunter."
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
Kurapika awoke the next morning to bright, merry sunlight filtering in through the curtains. He sat up with a yawn and looked around, expecting to find his mysterious benefactor, but found himself very much alone. In fact, most of the things that had been in the room were now gone. All that was left was his bag full of the traditional clothes and other artifacts he'd managed to salvage from the wreckage, sitting next to the wooden table with his weapon, and a plate of meat and eggs that he could only assume was breakfast.
The boy pulled himself out of bed and plodded bare-foot down the hall and stairs, into the open commons of the inn. His hair was tossed and tussled, and he knew he must look rather silly dressed in only the thin white clothes that had been the final layer of his robes, but at the moment he really didn't care.
The innkeeper looked up from his desk as he came down the stairs. "Well well. It's nice to see you up and about, young man. You had us all quite concerned."
Kurapika blinked at him, then came up so he could look up at the older man. "The…The man who brought me here." he said softly. "Where is he?"
"That man?" The innkeeper smiled a bit. "He left late yesterday afternoon. Paid all your expenses for the next week, and left. Asked me to make sure you got off all right."
Gone? But he hadn't even told him…had he even asked?
"Did he…Do you know his name?" The boy asked, looking up at the man again.
"As a matter of fact, I do." The innkeeper smiled again. "That Hunter passes by this way at least once every three to four months, a nice upstanding man, that one. Highly skilled, too."
'But what was…"
"His name?" A cheerful smile worked its way over the innkeeper's lips. "His name…is Ging."