Chapter Two: Some Long Forgotten Instinct

Alfred panted as he walked along the long dirt path. It had been three days since the incident at the village and Alfred had taken it upon himself to follow his brother's instructions. He had gathered all the food he could, filled some jugs with water, grabbed some extra supplies and the map before setting out to the circled spot. If there was anyway to bring his brother back, this "friend" was his best chance.

"Ugh….it's so hot!" Alfred moaned miserably, fanning himself with the map. "AND YOU'RE NOT HELPING!"


A white-haired cat was lazily draped across Alfred's shoulders, its thick fur making the back of Alfred's neck sweat profusely. The damn cat had decided to follow him from that time on the bakery's staircase. It stuck with him even as he packed everything, said goodbye to the people he knew (Ms. Lin was thankfully alright) and as he walked through the beaten path that connected his port village into the inner lands. Every time it got tired, it would hitch a ride on his shoulders.

"You've been sitting there all day! Walk for a bit why don't you…" Alfred grumbled.

The cat just purred and began grooming its paws. Alfred sighed and looked ahead. The path seemed to go on forever and, without meaning too, Alfred began to waiver. Doubts clouded his mind. He had been determined-was still determined-when he had set out. Sometime on his journey, the feeling of hopelessness reared its ugly head into his mind. It brought thoughts that left him shivering in its wake. The most prominent one that circled around in his head was one he never wished to speak aloud, in worry that just the spoken words would make it come true.

"Tch...this is taking forever…" Alfred muttered in annoyance and opened the map once more. The only defining feature that would ensure that the path he was taking was the correct one was the river that was wedged between the trees down to his left. It led down to his village and let out into the ocean, with the mouth starting in some mountain unknown. It brought little comfort to Alfred. The river was supposed to lead him to the home of this "friend", the home sitting on the riverbank, but it seemed never ending. No matter how many times he peered through the thin trees, no sign of a house appeared.

The summer's heat was overbearing and, with the afternoon, came the dry, sticky mouth taste Alfred always hated. Feeling too lazy to reach into his bag, he decided to go down to the rushing river for a quick drink. He carefully made his way off the path, slowly climbed down the slope where the tree line began on the side of the road and made his way to the river. The water currents weren't strong and the water itself was clear. Alfred poked the cat on his shoulders (it had fallen asleep at some point) and the hitchhiker leapt down and rushed over to the water, lapping it up eagerly.

Putting down his bag, Alfred crouched by the water's edge, cupped his hands and began scooping up the water. It was the best feeling really. Drinking something cool on a hot day. He drank so much that he could feel the water slosh around in his stomach. Satisfied with his drink, he walked over to a sturdy looking oak and laid back. He opened his bag and pulled out an apple and knife.

'Might as well have a snack', Alfred thought, peeling a few slices for himself and a few for the cat.

It was rather peaceful now that Alfred wasn't trudging in the sun's rays. The trees provided ample shade and the birds sang happily. It was a wonder why he didn't go into a forest more often.


Alfred watched as the cat jumped on his lap and meowed at his face. A sudden thought came into his mind. It was rather random, but he figured it important.

"I never gave you a name…" He said to the cat.

The cat's ear gave a twitch and continued to stare at Alfred.

"Wait….are you a boy or a girl?" Alfred asked, bending his head over to see if he could catch a glimpse of the cat's gender. The cat didn't seem to be bothered, it just yawned and curled up for a nap.

" a boy." Alfred uttered thoughtfully. "You kinda look like an Ash to me. I'm going to call you Ash."

Ash meowed and gave a twitch of his snow-white ear before closing his eyes and nodding off. Alfred reached out and ran a hand through his silky, smooth fur. The motions urged purrs from Ash and the rhythmic strokes made Alfred drowsy as well. It felt like all the days had caught up to him and weighed his eyelids down as if they were lead weights.

Soon, with the song of the birds, he fell asleep.

Alfred awoke to the sound of humming. For a moment, he thought he was back home, his brother cooking breakfast while humming some made up tune. It was a blissful couple of moments until his eyes flickered open.

This wasn't his home. His brother wasn't here. The smell of slightly burnt eggs and buttered bread were absent.

He sat up, alarmed by the unfamiliar surroundings. He looked around the home. It was neat and tidy, but the knick-knacks strewn about gave it a warmer feel. The humming was coming from a woman. Well, it may have been a woman, Alfred really was only assuming since her back was to him, her attention occupied with whatever it was that was cooking on the stove. As silently as possible, Alfred crawled out of the bed he had been placed in and, on his toes, began to slowly make his way towards his bag that had been placed by the door of the home. Not once did he ever take his eyes off the woman and flinched whenever she moved to grab something above her from the shelves. He noticed a fluffy white tail peeking out of his bag and Alfred rolled his eyes at the laid-back attitude Ash showed.

"Going somewhere?"

Alfred froze. Her back was still to him. Not knowing what to do, Alfred stayed frozen by the door, hand reaching out towards his bag.

The woman sighed and finally turned. She was very young looking. Light brown eyes were narrowed in a glare, mouth set in a stern frown, arms crossed against her chest with a hip cocked out. If Alfred hadn't been so afraid, he may have laughed at the look he was given, the look the scolding mothers gave their children in the marketplace for running around the stalls.

"Look kid, it's dark outside so just stay put. We'll find your parents tomorrow." She said, that sternness in her voice leaving no room for disagreement.

One look out the small window to his left could confirm that it was indeed dark outside. Alfred couldn't help but curse his own stupidity. He had slept for far too long and with that, came more of a setback for finding the circled spot. At this rate, he would never get Arthur back. Looking up at the woman, he stared into her narrowed eyes with a glare of his own.

"I'm leaving." Alfred said firmly. He snatched his bag from the ground, Ash giving a little hiss at the sudden roughness, and gave a nod to the woman before turning around and grasping the knob of the door. "Thank you for looking after me, miss…."

He was just about to step out when he felt a sudden chill at the back of his neck. He inched his head to the side and saw the woman giving off a very intimidating aura.

"Who are you calling miss?"

Alfred looked up nervously as that aura grew and suddenly arms were reaching out to grab at him.

"Wait a second-ack!"

Alfred glanced up at the man who sat across from him. Now that he wasn't trying to escape, he got to see him properly. The man was short and lean but from the muscles in his arms, Alfred didn't think he was weak. His brown hair was tied in a low ponytail, tossed over his shoulder and his eyes, a light brown that looked a bit golden in the light, weren't as scary now that he wasn't being glared at.

After being chewed at for mistaking him for a woman, the man had sat them down on the dining table and had served Alfred a plate of cooked fish and rice. They didn't say anything as they ate despite the overwhelming questions Alfred wished to ask the man. Even as the man had cleared the plates away and washed them, Alfred still couldn't find the courage to say anything.

Now, the two of them just stared at each other, waiting to see who was going to speak first. Normally, Alfred wouldn't be so reserved to talk to anyone (something Arthur always scolded him about) but a deep-seated awkwardness prevented him from saying anything.

"You know…" Alfred snapped from his thoughts as the man spoke. "this is not the first time someone has mistaken me for a woman."

Alfred could feel the heat of embarrassment in his cheeks.

"I-I am so sorry for assuming...I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

The man chuckled. "Don't worry, it takes a lot more than that to hurt my feelings. But call my miss again and I will hang you up by your toes."

The happy smile the man showed him was enough to scar Alfred for life.

"Anyways, what is a boy like you doing in the woods?" The man asked. "Your parents must be worried sick."

"I don't have parents." Alfred replied. "Only a big brother."

The man looked at him solemnly. Alfred knew he was going to apologize for asking such a question-they all did-so he changed the subject.

"I didn't get your name mister..?"

"Wang Yao or Yao Wang to you western folk."

Alfred smiled and stuck out his hand. "Nice to meet you Mr. Wang, my name is Alfred." Mr. Wang smiled and grasped his hand firmly.

"So, what brings you here Alfred?" Mr. Wang inquired.

The events of that day flashed through his mind in a flurry. A heavy weight, one that had always been there, seemed to drag him down even further. He really didn't want to talk about it but lying was something his big brother told him was wrong. Instead, Alfred reached for his bag and snatched up the map, maneuvering so Ash wouldn't be disturbed from his nap.

Alfred opened the map and laid it out on the table. He pointed at the circled spot and looked up at Mr. Wang. What better way to get information on a place in the woods than a man who lived in the woods?

"I am trying to get to this spot. My big brother said they were his friend." Alfred explained.

Mr. Wang took a closer look at the map. He stayed quiet for a moment before a scowl made its way onto his face. He muttered some words under his breath in a language Alfred didn't understand but, by the tone, they didn't seem like nice words.

"By any chance," Mr. Wang said through gritted teeth. "is your big brother named Arthur Kirkland?"

Alfred lit up and nodded his head. Mr. Wang sighed in annoyance and went back to muttering seemingly not nice words before groaning and dropping his head onto the table.

"Is something wrong Mr. Wang?" Alfred asked, worried that he had upset the man with his question.

" it's not you. I know your dàgē...but I wouldn't say we were friends." Mr. Wang mumbled, keeping his head down on the table.

"Ah! You're the friend!" Alfred exclaimed in surprise.

"I am NOT his friend," Mr. Wang repeated firmly. "I just owe him a favor."

Alfred watched as Mr. Wang lifted himself off the table and made his way to the stove, grabbing a kettle and pouring some water into it. That sense of nostalgia hit Alfred hard. Arthur always put on some tea whenever he was stressed too.

"So...what does that húndàn want?" Mr. Wang inquired, exasperated.

Watching as he put the kettle on the stove, Alfred swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "My brother...has been taken by pirates."

Mr. Wang whipped around and stared at Alfred wide eyed.

"He WHAT!?"

Alfred could feel the beginning of tears stinging his eyes. It was really all his fault that this had happened. If he had only been stronger or had hid better, maybe Arthur wouldn't have been taken.

"H-he was trying to protect m-me a-and I-I-" Alfred couldn't even finish his sentence. He just started crying. Maybe it was the frustration of it all. Or the stress. But they wouldn't stop no matter how many times he wiped them away.

'I'm so pathetic…', Alfred thought, curling into himself. He vaguely heard the meows of Ash, who woke up to the sounds of sobs and sniffles.

Mr. Wang looked at the boy, knees drawn up to his forehead and arms wrapped around them, trying to fold into himself and was reminded of a similar scene very long ago. A scene of a boy crying out to a cruel world that responded with nothing but loneliness. Acting on some instinct he had believed to be forgotten, Mr. Wang got up from his seat and made his way to the other side of the table before wrapping his arms around the crying boy and stroked his head. He hoped it wasn't awkward, but the boy didn't move away so he just continued to hold the child close and provide what little comfort he could.

"Listen to me, " Mr. Wang began. "I know you think you could have done something more but what is done is done. We cannot change the past and we can't keep conjuring scenarios of what could have happened if you did something differently. What we need to do now is figure out a way to get your brother back."

Alfred lifted his head from his knees and wiped his swollen eyes with the back of his hand.

"You're going to help me?" He asked in a timid, hopeful voice.

Mr. Wang sighed in irritation but nodded.

"Yes...I'll help you find that wúyòng brother of yours."

Alfred squealed and threw himself at Mr. Wang.

"Thank you so much!" Alfred shouted happily.

Mr. Wang blushed at the gratitude and tried to pry the excitable child off him. After being released from the rather tight hug, Mr. Wang stood up and pointed towards the bed where Alfred first woke up.

"Okay okay! It's very late and we are going to head out tomorrow. Go to sleep." Mr. Wang instructed in that stern voice.

Alfred nodded and picked up a sleepy Ash (who decided it was time for another nap since his last one was interrupted) from the ground and made his way back to the bed. Alfred nestled himself in the wool blankets, Ash taking residence by the side of his head and gave Mr. Wang a small smile.

"Good night Mr. Wang and...thank you."

Mr. Wang huffed but gave a small smile in return.

"Your welcome."

Mr. Wang watched silently as Alfred began to nod off. Once he was sure he was asleep, he put on his shoes and quietly made his way out of the house. The moment he stepped out, he inhaled deeply. The smell of the forest never ceased to calm him down. And there was much that needed to be calmed down.

To think, after all these years, Arthur Kirkland would contact him of all people. It wasn't a secret. He hated Arthur. He hated what that man stood for and what he was. No matter how many years had passed, those feelings would never change. But to think Arthur would get taken by pirates is something he could have never foreseen. Arthur was crafty and sly. That's what made him the snake that he was. Pirates shouldn't have been Arthur's downfall.

But then again, Arthur did have a weakness now. Had someone told him years ago that Arthur Kirkland would have been raising a child, he would have thought it was some sick joke. People like him weren't capable of taking care of a child, or rather, shouldn't be taking care of one at all. However, this wasn't Alfred's fault. It was clear that the boy didn't know anything but, for some reason, that made him all the more angry.

A part of him wanted nothing to do with that man ever again. A part of him wanted to tell Alfred that his big brother was probably already dead and lying in a ditch somewhere. But the other part of him remembered that despite everything Arthur was, that man had helped him when no one else would, and because of that, he was in Arthur's debt.

Yao looked up at the moon as if it had the answers he so desperately craved.

'In moments like these,' Yao thought. 'It is best to rely on one's instinct. Right, Arthur?'

A/N: Another rushed chapter. Oh well!

Dàgē: Big brother

Húndàn: Bastard

Wúyòng: Useless

I used Google translate...I am not sure how accurate this is...