Her Reflection

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Ascendant sure steps.

Touch spreading—farther, faster.

Summit—Her's once more.

A soft breeze rippled through the waves of people—merchants, vendors, shopkeepers and shoppers—as hundreds of goods changed hands amid yelled prices, loud protests, and the chink of coins.

In a dark nook of a nearby alley, a little shadow stood within the shadows, watching, waiting.

They walk around me, walking over me. They look at me to look down on me.

I need to move—now. Work hard, work fast. But won't I be called a bastard for it?

"A born criminal!" He spat.

A middle-aged man in western clothing struggled into the crowd.

Trained eyes locked on his uncertain movements as he was jostled around in the throng, unsure—instant target.

The shadows parted. The slight frame of a little boy—dark brown hair, sharp eyes focused, a face hardened and determined—exited the alley. The bright noon sun dazzled the urchin's eyes, as he maneuvered nimbly into and through the mass of people. His tattered yellow yukata bore paint, dirt, smudges and dried blood alongside the tracing of a tranquil leafy print—the original. It also held several odd bulges, the fruits of his day's work.

He closed in.

Western pants—slip two fingers in, slip wallet out, the money's already mine.

Catching up.

But it's never mine. "I don't want it!" He swore under his breath.

Yahiko trained away his eyes, tucking the left foot behind his right. He drew in his right hand, left flailing out showily for support.

Falling into practice. Falling into the unsuspecting fool. This is getting too easy.

But before the practiced yelp escaped his lips, before he collided with his target, a shriek cut through ahead of him.

What's going on here?

A startled Yahiko nimbly regained his footing and pushed away as a spray of water doused his target. The man had run into a fisherman, upsetting his basket. The contents had come flying as the fisherman went sprawling to the ground.

Yahiko watched the man fall onto his seat even as the fisherman crawled onto his hands and knees. The large wicker basket landed a few feet away, sloshing water, it rolled to a stop.

As the man in the western clothing pushed stood up, his face an indignant mask, nostrils flared in annoyance, his fingers swept stiffly across the sleeves of the dampened suit.

A strained cry rang out amid the laughter.

"Catch them—my fish, hurry!"

The fisherman had remained on the ground, his eyes wild and searching. He pounced forward and began to claw at the dirt. Many pairs of concerned eyes watched, then understood. Laughter rang out again as the man scrambled to his feet and made his way back to the basket.

Yahiko watched as several men walked up to his target and engaged him in conversation, possibly offering him their wares along with their words. None neared the fisherman. He had returned to the ground, searching feverishly for more of his lost catch. People cleared the way around him, politely craning their necks under guise of assistance.

His desperation caught onto the boy.

This is his meal, maybe his family's too.

His vision swam. He stopped—looked away.

Focus Yahiko! No time for this. The idiot—where?

His hands shot up, shielding his eyes. All but blinded—the brilliant rays of the sun, left him standing, dazed, blinking—only for a moment.

Yahiko lowered his gaze.

"Chik-kku—" he stopped, curse unfinished—staring.

Yahiko tensed. His eyes shining with rare, true happiness. There, right at his feet lay his true target. The pouch, untouched, unclaimed, left in the dirt.

Warily he lowered himself to the ground. Planting his left foot firmly before him, he began to fiddle with the strap of the geta, while the right knee covered the cloth wallet. He fought back a smile, as he seemed to go unnoticed, the sea of eyes oblivious of the crouching child. The seconds passed.

His fingers inched closer as he lifted his knee slowly, tentatively.

"Thank you m' boy"

He looked up—stricken, mind leaping through the jumble of thoughts, racing to excuses, to perhaps an escape—and into the lean, lined, dirt stained face of the fish-monger.

"Thank you," the man repeated.

Yahiko's gaze followed the man's as his heart settled to a more bearable beat. There, an arms length away, struggling in the dirt was a tiny catfish. Its tail beating desperately, while the shovel shaped head attempted to dig into the dampening sand, there was little give, but it fought on. His eyes widened.

With a curt nod and a small smile he turned on his knee and pounced. Sweeping his arm inward, he scooped up the little thing from the dirt. Yahiko winced as the sharp fin bit into his fingers. He cupped his catch delicately in both hands, and stood up with a triumphant grin.

He neared the basket and released the fish onto the thin film of water remaining in the flat brass pan inside the basket. The few fish inside began struggling with increased vigor. The sun's reflection on the smooth golden plane caught his eye.

The fisherman was a ways away, caught up in his hunt.

It's right there.

With a rueful smile he turned the other way—walking, steps lighter.

I could still get it.

And disappeared into the crowd.

But, She is watching me.

The sun's radiance eased—light milder.

Back into shadows.

"For now," She whispered, smiling.

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My submission for the June-July Exchange.

Done on the sun goddess Amaterasu(Shinto kami) with the voice lent from sueb262's Fear No Evil..

919 word drabble..

Thanks to lolo popoki for the once over..

Hope this pleases