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JAOR Side Story-Once A Rat-Always A Rat

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JAOR Side Story-Once A Rat-Always A Rat

Post by Konaxookami on Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:12 pm

This is a side story to a long term project I'm working on called Just Anohter One of the Rats-or JAOR for short. It's a Alternate universe where the characters of the Mai universe are in a land of nobles and poor folk. There isn't much of a middle class, and while Shizuru is a noble, she yearns for a life of freedom. With the help of her maid, she dresses as a boy and goes down to the slums during the day and befriends a group of young street rats, which are led by none other than Natsuki. Some stuff happens, and Shizuru (Who gains the nickname Kiyohime) is found out and kicked out. This takes place after that event in Arc 1 but quite a bit before Arc 2 where the girls are much older. At this point Shizuru is 15 and Natsuki is 14. Other info that will be helpful is as follows...

Midori, Youko and Yukariko all live in a church in the slums where they help the children. Midori is affectionately called 'Sensei' by all the Rats because she is generally seen as the most knowledgeable person in the slums (She is there by choice, as is Youko).

Reito Kanzaki, Haruka, and Yukino are all upper class folk who knew about Shizuru's little escapades-Reito is actually engaged to Shizuru in a long standing arranged marriage. Neither particularly thinks about it that much.

The Rats are little thieves and most people see them as a gang. They don't generally get in a lot of trouble because they only steal a bit from everywhere, and never enough to really hurt a shop (A method they learned would be most effective from Midori) and thus most people consider them harmless. They do scuffle with other groups of street children, and those are the only time when people generally get mad. They all have their own territories, but the church is considered neutral group for medical care and religious reasons.

Otherwise...some of this stuff will divulge a little bit of the plot-but I was purposefully vague in a lot of spots. There are a few spoilers, but honestly, they aren't completely detrimental to the plotline as a whole in this point in time so they're fine. So...Enjoy I guess?

Honestly, the situation I was in was almost laughably ironic. Considering all that I had been through a year ago in my time on the streets, one would think I had gotten better instincts. But as it would seem, court and parties had dulled them to a state where I am sure someone could come up behind me and throw a cover over my head and yank me aside.

The sad truth of the matter was that this happened.

What a kick she would get at knowing I’d fallen for something so simple. How easily can I see that easy grin, her green eyes sparkling in mirth as she cuts my binds loose, and hear her and snicker at my misfortune. Oh yes. It’s all too clear to me.

What is also painfully clear to me is how uncomfortable my arms feel at this odd angle and how tired my neck feels from having my head jerked back so often to prove who I am. The bruise swelling across my cheek throbs almost smugly as I lay face down on a dirt covered floor of a old factory. The sting of my shame hurts slightly more than all of my injuries though.

Did I think simply because I had been one of them for a time that I could not be taken by something so foolish?

Adults, I tried to rationalize with myself, were far better at this than children. And better they were. They had caught me in a crowd while I had been out with Reito shopping for something I can’t even clearly remember now. Trivial I presume, something to take my mind off of street rats and gangs.

Easier said than done truthfully.

Though clearly, for all my thoughts of street rats and gangs I was not well equipped against them. A sad testament to all the hard work she had put into teaching me. She would surely be ashamed.

“Well, well, well, let’s see how proud the great Viola family is now?” The man’s voice was like sandpaper, and his hands were just as rough as he grabbed my chin and forced me to stare into his face. Gods his breath reeked. “Look how high and mighty the coveted Shizuru Viola is now that she’s dressed in rags like the rest of us,” he grinned, teeth covered in tobacco residue, “How proper do you feel now m’lady?

Not too proper to spit in his face. That was a trick I’d picked up on the streets. Insulted? Spit at them. Low class? Most definitely. Effective? More than you can possibly imagine.

His face contorted quickly into rage and he thrust my head down to the ground. The world spun on an axis for a moment, my head going fuzzy or more than a few seconds. My thoughts scattered across my brain for a few solid moments before I became lucid again.

“Hey man! Don’t knock her around so much! We need to get the ransom for her too remember!” another voice, this one equally as gruff as the first. Simpletons. They actually admitted that to me? The only consolation that this brought to me was that I was at least expected to live. I would get out of this situation soon enough. Not soon enough for me though. No. I had no inclination to stay in this filthy place in these filthy clothes longer than I needed to.

“You’d be surprised what a little bit of thought and persistence will get ya,”

Her voice echoed in my mind and I wasn’t sure if if it was the fact my skull had been smashed into the ground or if it was just my mind’s eye but I could swear when I looked up from my place on the floor she was standing there, a confident tilt to her shoulders, the proud smirk on her lips and her hands jammed easily in her pockets. She looked exactly as the day I had left. I had thought I had forgotten what she truly looked like.

I had forgotten how wonderful she looked when she was so proud.

“C’mon Kiyohime-You’re better than this,” she urged, her teeth flashing in the all too familiar feral grin, “Put a little effort into this. You’ve got a lot to work with here,” she gestured about the room and my eyes fell on a pile of sturdy wooden poles. Yes. That was a lot to work with. What had this place been, a mixing factory? What other place would have my weapon of choice so close at hand. Her shoes scuffed the ground in front of my face and she leaned down, “They don’t wantcha hurt-so what does that mean?” she was almost teasing me with her voice.

They didn’t want me hurt-I checked my wrists, wiggling what I could.


They were looser than I had thought. What was it she had said? We’re kids-so they don’t like tyin’ us up so tight. That means marks and everyone hates a kid beater so if you’re ever caught up in a jam-chances are you’ll be in luck. Little did she know that they tied heiresses even looser. Hadn’t expected me to put up a fight I assume. Well…

They assumed wrong.

I glanced around and caught sight of the first of three men. A saw a flash of metal and for a moment my heart dropped in my chest-But no-It wasn’t a gun. A flask! How weak do they think me that they could keep me subdued while on the drink? Still-I was quiet as I rolled myself over closer to the poles. If I was quick and quiet enough with these ropes, I would be able to grab a staff before they noticed and rose an alarm. Give a few more seconds and I would be out on the streets heading towards the nearest policeman.

I gave the ropes around my wrists a small twist and thanked whatever god was watching me when my wrist easily slipped through with a bit of well timed tugs and twists. I moved as slowly as I could and her form shook a bit with laughter.

“That’s the way-Move as slowly as you can and the fools’ eyes are so bad they won’t notice the movements-” She swung her head towards the man who was supposed to be watching me, “All they care about is their liquor anyways,”

Reaching down to my feet, as slowly and quietly as I could I undid the binds around my ankles and had to bite back the sigh of relief that threatened to break past my lips.

“There ya go,” a elephant of the head and her hands rested on her hips confidently, “Come on Kiyohime-show ‘em what your made of,” she urged, bouncing on her feet already. My fingers reached out and grasped the cool wood of the sturdy pole at my side and I felt truly at ease for the first time in over a year.

“What the fuc-” I didn’t let the man who had realized I had escaped finish his curse as the pole whipped swiftly from around my back to crack upon his head. He slumped to the ground with ease and I heard her whoop behind me in victory.

“Atta way Kiyohime!”

There were the other two now. They didn’t have any weapons with them-but the bottle of vapors and the rag in the bigger one’s hands warned me if he got that anywhere near my face that I would not have another moment of lucidity again before being delivered to wherever they were to take me. If that was even still the plan.

“Well? Fight like a Rat Kiyohime-You’re better them ‘em,”

She was right. They were blocky and big. Clumsy where I had the speed of youth and the quick steps of a girl. Suddenly all the dance lessons seemed to work in my favor as I weaved around them and knocked them over their skulls soundly. Goodness these poles were sturdy. What I wouldn’t give to take one back with me to the house. A smile twitched across my lips as I scurried out. Father would be furious at that.

“Wouldn’t he Natsuki?”

I turned towards where my friend had been and paused, standing in shock for a moment. There was no one there. I felt my head hurt horribly and my stomach churn in shame. Of course. What was I thinking? Delusions. Adrenaline. Natsuki had swore she’d never help me again. The pole in my hand suddenly weighed more than a ton.

“Get out. You’re not a one of us anymore. From this point forward-you’re on your own.”

I had to beat back the tears and force myself to look around the streets. I was shocked by the familiarity. This was the street of the church where Yukariko, Midori, and Youko lived. I could see its modest peak in the distance. I headed towards that, feet like lead and my head throbbing. I don't properly recall making it to the church, but I do remember that it was Midori that caught sight of me first.

“Well damn!” Midori’s voice almost made me cry, “There’s a face I haven’t seen in a while-and bruised up! Tch! What did I tell you girls about picking fights?” she scolded gently and took the staff from my hands softly. Her eyes were calm and warm and her smile wholeheartedly glad, “Good to see you again Shizuru,” she welcomed.

Youko and Yukariko’s reactions were not so soft. Clucking and orders to sit and let them look at me were given and done without a protest. Youko always was a good doctor. Yukariko was taking care of the police patrol that would pick up the three who had attacked me. Midori had scurried off somewhere in the hustle and bustle and only appeared once all my wounds were dressed.

She offered a mug of tea and sat across from me on a cot. “So. How does it come to pass that the Viola heir finds herself down here nowadays?” she cocked her head, her bright hair shifting into her interested face slightly, “If I’m not mistaken, your father makes sure you have a escort everywhere now,” she waggled an eyebrow at me and grinned, “Don’t tell me you lost them and became good friends with those men to escape?”

A laugh, the first true one I’ve had in a while passed over my lips. I had forgotten how good the ‘sensei’ was at making me feel better. “Nothing so strange. I was out shopping in the dress district with Kanzaki and they rushed us. As much as a gentleman Reito may be his prowess in physical sense is not so developed,” I explained.

A sound of comprehension and Midori leaned back on a palm, the other tipping her mug up to her mouth for a sip of her coffee, “Well. Good to see your time down here wasn’t all for waste,” she mused, “Since you managed to get away,”

A bitter smile passed my lips as I took a sip of my tea, “Once a Rat, always a Rat,” I recited, rubbing the mug’s chipped handle pensively, “Isn’t that how it goes?”

Midori nodded, “Indeed. One could certainly say that, couldn’t they?” she gave me a sad soft of smile, “Natsuki’s still fond of that mantra,” she threw her name in casually and I felt my heart ache again. She peered at me and chuckled, “Puberty has been kind to you Shizuru,” she noted, “You certainly could not pass as a boy now,” she pointed out and I felt my face flush.

“Can any of them pass as boys now?” I asked, feeling awkward in my own skin again-still not used to the curves and other strange things that had happened while I had gone through the terrible beast of puberty.

Midori laughed, “Mai never could and now she couldn’t even pass as a person less than 14 at this point, even though she’s 13. Mikoto and Akira still can since they’re young…Natsuki’s finally gotten around to growing her hair out she now she’s finally starting to look like a woman,” she peered at my face and grinned, “Always wondered what the two of you would look like with long hair,”

“I see…” I fiddled with a lock of my own hair, now well past my shoulders. Natsuki was growing her hair out? I tried to picture it-but my mind couldn’t shake the image of the Natsuki I knew before-still with the roundish face of a child and the flat and androgynous body of a child. I could not envision the curves and hair. I shook my head, “Actually I do not. I never thought of her with long hair really,”

Midori laughed, “Yes well, she looks more like her mother with long hair,” she explained and I nodded. Saeko Kuga, Natsuki’s mother, from whom her father, the Duke Kruger, had abandoned for his mistress and caused his wife’s untimely demise. Which also left Natsuki out to fend for herself. I could only remember seeing a photograph of Saeko once in my life ad I remember as a child thinking she was very pretty. If Natsuki were to return to court…she’d steal everyone’s hearts.

“She’d do well in court then. Long hair is vogue apparently,” I mused, struggling to keep idle chatter when I wanted to ask how everyone was. To see if they were eating-or if anyone had gotten hurt-or if Natsuki still hated me. “Are they-“

“Everyone is fine Shizuru,” Midori soothed and suddenly she was sitting beside me with a arm wrapped around my shoulders, “They never have want for food in this city-not when so many are so free with their produce and coin,” she reminded. A squeeze on my shoulder, “She keeps them all in line. She wouldn’t have it any other way,”

I gulped, and took another sip of tea, one that did nothing to calm my nerves, “Does she…I mean-Duran-Natsuki-“ the codename slipped past my lips in the rush of words along with her name and I had to take a steadying breath to ready myself for my next phrase, “Does she still hate me?”

Midori paused and pursed her lips, and I could tell she was trying to think of the best way to put her words. “She doesn’t speak of you often. In fact-she doesn’t let anyone talk about you,” her eyes twinkled with mirth, “I do though. Me, Youko, and Yukariko talk to Mai about you,” I felt my heart lift slightly. “We talk about Kiyohime,” she explained.

My old nickname brought a smile to my face, “So I haven’t been forgotten then?”

She laughed heartily, “Hardly. You’re a bit of a legend really. In some cases bad, since the younger ones have this nasty rumor Duran killed you for spreading secrets and breaking the code-but most are good. Besides, you know Mikoto with that mouth of hers…”

I giggled, “Once she starts it won’t stop, yes I remember,” I gazed into my mug and sighed, my shoulders slumping in defeat, “I miss them Sensei. All of them. Natsuki especially,” I hung my head, “I just…wish I could apologize for everything. All the lies, all of the bad blood,” I shook my head, “But I will never see her again, will I?”

Midori shrugged, “One will never know what the future holds Shizuru,” suddenly her gaze lifted upwards and she nodded, “But it would seem your father has sent a carriage to bring you back home now,” she took my mug and swiftly embraced me in a hug, “Don’t be a stranger Kiyohime-everyone needs confession and guidance as some point. We’re as good a spot as any for it,” she reminded and I laughed. Leave it to Sensei to come up with a way to keep me connected to my past.

I broke from the hug and smiled to her, clasping her arm tightly, “Thank you Sensei. For everything,” I poured as much as I could into those words, as if they could will her to understand how much our chat had meant. She nodded, clapping my back lightly.

“Get outta here Kiyohime-Go take a nice bath and get some rest. You’ll have quite the story for court later this week.”

I laughed at her words but nodded all the same, going out to my carriage without the sense of depression I had walking into the church. As we lurched forward and headed towards the better side of the city I could have swore I saw a head of cobalt weaving through the crowd and my heart ached for a moment. A weary smile crossed my lips though, and distantly I felt my cheek throb in protest.

“Once a Rat-Always a Rat.”


Ugh…carriages…They take up too much damn room in the streets. How in hell am I supposed to get into a church in the slums if there’s a freakin’ carriage there? Whatever. I’m better at improvising. I shifted around the throngs of people crowding to get a look at the carriage and tried to squeeze my way through the crack in the crowd to the back alleyways. Ugh! These stupid breasts…All they’re done for me is get me in tighter spots than I want and more boys staring there than at my face. Stupid idiots…

There we go! I grab a hold of the loose brick on the side of the wall of the street and pull myself up with a heave. Ugh…gonna have to work on these arms…that was far too difficult. Still though, I easily found my way around to the back entrance of the church and entered it with ease.

“Oi, Sensei? I need some advice for somethin’, you gotta-” I cut myself off when I saw the normally bubbly teacher looking almost pensively at the doorway and I glanced down where she sat. Another unattended cup of…tea? Who the heck drinks tea here? Besides the nuns that is.

She turned and grinned, “Well well…speak of the devil and he shall appear,” she tilted her head, “You either have the best or worst timing in the world Natsuki,”

I blinked, trotting over to her with a surely strange look on my face. The heck was she talkin’ about? “The hell Sensei?”

She chuckled and shook her head, peering at me with curious eyes. I squirmed, not used to the scrutiny, “You know, I think she’s right. I can’t see you with long hair either,” she mused easily and I felt my cheeks flame up in indignation.

“Wha…You-You were the one who said I should grow it out to begin with!” I protested and she clucked, waving a hand in dismissal.

“Maybe wait another few years before fully growing it out is all I’m saying. You’ve got at least another year where you could pull off being a ‘girly’ boy,” she laughed and I felt my ears grow warm. I hate being the butt of a joke I don’t understand.

“What are you talking about Midori? The hell-Who were you talking to?” I demanded, glaring at her.

She smiled enigmatically and shrugged, “A Rat. You know, she needed to be patched up so we gave her some help,” she stood and picked up the empty mugs and began walking towards the kitchen, “Been a while since I’d seen her so we chatted,” she threw I wink at me, “You came up once or twice, but then again, you always come up when it comes to her,”

The emphasis on the last word made me frown. Midori was talking in riddles again, and far be it my job to figure the hell out of ‘em. “Whatever! I just need your help with this stupid stuff-“ I called, scrambling after her, “This whole liking people nonsense-in the adult way. Hows’ that even work?”
Her laughter was the beginning of the worst discussion of my life. Still though-I felt a nagging in the back of my mind at our earlier words. Who had been here? How had they had known me? I shook my head and tossed the thoughts aside. I had worse things to worry about.

It surely wasn’t anyone important anyways.

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