Disclaimer

Oh yes. You've got me. I'm the great Higuchi Tachibana, writing a fanfiction story for her own manga. Notice the heavy sarcasm?


Claiming the Bounty (CtB)

zagogay

Day of publication: March 13, 2010
(New Zealand time)


Important notes

Set in the 1910s, in the cowboy days. Remember those really old Clint Eastwood movies? Yeah. The setting is kind of like that. And also, you have to understand that back then, 300 dollars was a lot. So imagine Mikan's shock when the bounty was 5,000 dollars! :-)


Dedication

To Simple Misconception, my daughter, who's always there when I need her. I love you hun!


The man struggled, despite the seemingly obvious fact that she was at least twice as strong as his near-anorexic body, which got her thinking, how in the world did this little man commit something as drastic as killing a six-foot-three, strong and well-built man?

Never under-estimate your opponent.

True that, she sneered. She held the man's hand together by one, single hand, roughly smacking his head to stop him from struggling with the other.

"Jesus! You might be damn small, but you're strong!" she growled, getting a rope from her backpack to tie the man's hands together.

"Let go of me, bitch!" he said, attempting to get away from her hold.

"Now that's something I won't do." she chuckled, in the process of tying a knot on the rope. She chucked him at the cart connected to the rear end of the horse she supposedly owned. After making sure that the knot she made to secure his hands and feet together were tight enough, she walked over to her horse, gently straddling it. She tapped it with the back of her boots, and Betty – a name she decided to call the horse – galloped away, with a speed her master desired.


"G'morning, Sheriff." she greeted, temporarily taking off her hat to slightly bow at the respectable men, gathered around a table, eating something she guessed was breakfast.

"Mornin', Mikan!" the Sheriff replied with enough enthusiasm to equal to hers. "What brings you here today?"

"I caught someone," she grinned. "Three hundred dollars on his head it was."

"Ah," the Sheriff nodded knowingly. "Kayamoto Kisame?"

She shrugged, suddenly disappearing out the door, coming back into the shed with Kisame in tow, grumbling some incoherent words none of them could have heard, even if they leaned closer.

"Here," she said, shoving her capture in front of the policemen.

"Well done, Mikan," the Sheriff complimented. "Your twenty-sixth bounty." He went around to his oak desk, opening the drawers and rummaging through them. "Three hundred, was it?"

She nodded.

"Here," he said, walking around the table to hand her the money, prolonging his hold to her hand, giving her the goosebumps.

He was at least as old as her father for goodness sake – if he was still alive, that is.

"Thanks, Sheriff." she said, withdrawing her hand.

"Anytime, doll." he winked.

She turned around and walked to the door, giving a glance at Kisame, wondering what the future had in store for him.

He would probably be hanged to death. That was what usually happens around here – she even witnessed some herself, when the Sheriff kindly asked her to watch.

Mikan gave him a look of apology, hoping he would get the idea that she just needed the money, and that she had no grudge against him whatsoever. She was a bounty hunter, after all. The likes of her goes around, looking for criminals and taking them to the Sheriff to claim their well-earned money.

"By the way, Mikan," the Sheriff called out, just as she reached the old, creaking door. "There's another 'wanted', if you're interested. This one is a lot of money, I assure you. Five thousand dollars is a lot for you, I'd imagine."

She took an intake of breath.

Five thousand dollars was a lot of money. It was enough to buy a horse she can legally call her own. It was enough to rent a house for a year. It was more than any bounty she's ever received. This was an opportunity you'd be literally crazy to turn down.

"Who is it?" she asked meekly, suddenly feeling her throat go dry, coming to the realization that having a big bounty on the criminal means that he or she is a hard catch.

"Hyuuga Natsume," he smirked. "His name is Hyuuga Natsume." he reached for a paper and handed it to her, after which he leaned back on his table and gently sat on it, never wiping the smirk off of his wrinkled face.

She looked down at the black and white paper, examining his face. Her eyes trailed below the picture, the big 'WANTED' font accompanied with a reward for whoever caught this criminal.

But, she thought. He doesn't look the least bit like a criminal.


Natsume Hyuuga hung his head low, letting his rather long bangs cover his easily outstanding red eyes.

Damn it.

If only his face wasn't plastered in every poster he could see, he would have been living freely by now. He would have had a wife; children; a decent house. But almost all of those became impossible to get when that day happened. The day he killed five guys in one go.

But in his defense – they were asking for it. Natsume was the type of guy that can't control his rage. Once rage takes over, he sees red. And there's no stopping him. But that was rare. Oh-so-very-rare.


She stomped her foot angrily on the ground. She looked around the pub, hoping against all odds that the guy she'd been looking for would miraculously show up just. like. that.

Exhausted, she slumped down on the nearest stool she could grab. She lifted her hands up to wipe the sweat gathering on her forehead. Well, it was a hot summer day, after all, and she's been looking day and night for that stupid criminal, who seems to be hiding in a very good place.

"Hyuuga Natsume," she whispered, absentmindedly muttering his name over and over again. "Where the hell are you hiding?" she sighed.


He was inside a barn. He doesn't know who it belongs to, but his bed was made of hay. Chickens ran freely around him, not caring whether he was there or not. Horses sneered, clicking their heels hard on the floor. Natsume glanced at them, contemplating whether to steal one when he leaves the barn. He decided against it, thinking that breaking into the barn was bad enough.

He gently laid his head back on the makeshift bed, just about ready to go to sleep, when the barn doors suddenly burst open. Natsume jumped up, scared that the owner of the barn had discovered him. But instead, a girl emerged from the near darkness, the moon illuminating her face. She had a cowboy hat on her head, her long brown hair was let down, waving freely in the air.

He took a step back, still being cautious of the stranger who didn't look much like someone who's looking for a fight. That's why he found it silly to be cautious of her. He should be relaxed, because if ever she even thinks of attacking him, he could easily beat her.

He relaxed and crossed his arms, waiting for her to do any introduction, or perhaps she would recognize him as that criminal in every poster in town.

"Who are you?" he called out, waiting for the girl to move.

She flicked her hair out of her face as she focused her eyes at him, then she took an intake of breath.

Round about this time was when Natsume feared for his life. The girl unmistakably recognized him as the criminal on the posters. And if that's the case, she would surely go to the police and tell them where he was hiding, and if that happens, well, he'll have to think of a plan to get out of that mess yet again. He had a big bounty on his head, and anyone would have drooled at the opportunity to have that much of a money.

"Who are you?" he repeated, taking a step towards her. She didn't step back, to his astonishment.

"Hyuuga Natsume," she breathed out, a smile crawling up to her lips.

"No, that's my name. I highly doubt it that we posses the same name."

"No," she shook her head. "You're Natsume Hyuuga." she smirked.

Natsume nodded his head ever so slightly. "Yes, I am. What business do you have with me?"

She took a step towards him and placed her hand on her hips. "I'm a bounty hunter."

He paused, not really believing what she said. "You have got to be joking."

She looked hurt, her forehead creasing in anger. "Why? I'm not the least bit kidding. Do you think I'm incapable of being a bounty hunter?"

Natsume sneered. "A girl? They sent a girl to capture me?" he paused. "… I feel insulted."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Quite the contrary. I believe you should be quite honored that I'm the one who's pursuing after you. I'm a bit picky."

Natsume raised his eyebrows. "Your ego astounds me, young lady."

Mikan stomped her foot on the ground. "I am not a young lady. You might seem like a million years older than me, but I am far from being a young lady."

"… Let me rephrase that. Your ego astounds me, old lady."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You imbecile!"

He smirked. "Well now I see you're not very fit to be a bounty hunter. I've come across many bounty hunters, and you are by far the lousiest."

"I've yet to do something." she said through gritted teeth.

"That's exactly my point. By now, you should have been in combat with me. And yet you're still not doing anything. Amazing." he chuckled.

In a swift movement, Mikan jumped at him, clutching a dagger with her right hand. Natsume was caught off guard, thinking too much that she was incapable of hurting him, therefore resulting with the dagger slicing through his left cheek vertically just below his left eye, blood oozed out immediately after.

Natsume staggered back, his left hand covering his wound. He dragged his crimson eyes back at the supposed bounty hunter.

"Do you still think I'm not fit to be a bounty hunter?" she smirked.

"Yes." he immediately said. "A bounty hunter would have killed me by now. You're pathetic."

Mikan scrunched up her face, anger rising within her. "Bastard!" she shouted as she attacked him.

However, Natsume was ready this time. His stance was strong and very capable of stopping her feeble body of giving him another bloody wound. When she launched at him with her dagger, he grabbed her right wrist and twisted it, causing her whole body to twist with her, so Natsume was facing her rear, with a tight grip on her wrist that was pushed against her back.

"You never did tell me your name," he breathed on her neck, tightening his hold on her hands.

Mikan struggled, her breath becoming rugged. "M-Mikan. Sakura Mikan."

"Ah," Natsume smirked, realization flooding his eyes. "The infamous Sakura Mikan."

"Infamous?" she sneered. "I'd beg to differ! A lot thinks of me as a hero, you know, for capturing all those criminals who would have otherwise killed many more victims!"

"Well," he paused, cocking his head to an angle. "to my fellow criminals, you are rather notorious."

She sneered. "Let go of me, you bastard."

"In one condition," he said. "You will stop trying to kill me."

"I wasn't trying to kill you! I can't kill you! If I do, I won't get my money! Idiot!"

"Let me rephrase that, then," he said through gritted teeth, annoyance rising within him. "I'll let you go in one condition, you will stop trying to capture me."

"I can't promise that." she spat.

He tightened his grip on her wrist. "Then I'm afraid we will spend the whole night like this, old lady."

She screamed and kicked her legs into the air. Natsume wrapped his right arm around her neck, as his left hand tightened its hold on her wrist even more.

Mikan screamed of agony. "I hate you!"

"The feeling's mutual."

"Fine!" she shouted, closing her eyes. She dropped her arms to her side and relaxed. "Fine," she sighed. "I'll stop. I won't go after you."

Natsume smirked. "Good."

Mikan opened her eyes. "But! I will travel with you." she smirked.

Natsume let go of her and crossed his arms. "What do you mean?"

"I'll go with you. Wherever you go."

He knew there was a hidden agenda somewhere in her offer, he wasn't stupid not to notice it, but he was somehow reluctant to say no.

Besides, he thought. she might go to the police and root me out. If I let her come wherever I go, I'd be able to keep my eye on her.

"Fine." he said. "Stay by my side."

She grinned. "Of course."

"Can I trust you enough not to fear my life while I sleep?" he asked, still cautious of her.

"No." she deadpanned.

He cursed. "I'll have to watch you until you sleep, then."

She squinted her eyes at him. "That's a bit creepy, Hyuuga."

He shrugged, pointing his index finger at the makeshift bed he had prepared for himself earlier. "You can rest there."

Mikan dragged her eyes to look at it, cringing at how some of the hay pointed upwards, afraid that if she lays there, some of it would be poking through her clothes. It would be painful, but it was life. Life was unfair.

She slowly walked towards it, prolonging the time, not liking the idea that she had to sleep on a bunch of hays put together.

"If you don't like it, then you can sleep on the floor, full of chicken droppings." he said, as if reading her mind. He crossed his arms and waited.

She glared at him. "I'm fine, thanks for your concern."

"I wasn't concerned." he deadpanned.

She sneered as she sat down, slowly laying her back on the hay. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, fully aware that Natsume was staring at her. But she didn't think much of it. He had mentioned earlier that he would watch her until she fell asleep, just to make sure she wouldn't attack him in any way, so she would just have to bear with that. Because really, she would have attacked him, had the situation be that he was sleeping before her. That was the kind of person she was.

And so the criminal watched the bounty hunter, admiring the fact that even when she had her eyes closed, her beauty never faded away. She looked peaceful and serene. He didn't want to drag his eyes away from her. He wanted to stare at her forever…

Natsume slapped his forehead.

How could he be thinking about this? She wanted to capture him and take him to the police for goodness sake. She was a bounty hunter! It was an unspoken rule to him and his fellow criminals – you can't develop any feelings towards any bounty hunter.

But it seems like he can't help himself. It wasn't like it hasn't happened before. He has already fallen in love with a bounty hunter before.

She was as beautiful as her – the first girl that had first captured his heart. Perhaps even surpassing her beauty.

Natsume looked away, hurt etched on his face.

Ayako.

His dead girlfriend.


To be continued…


Notes

Taa-daa. Did you like it? I think this is a great take on the 'Bounty Hunter' kind of idea. I like it. It's refreshing.

A few explanations – back then, they talked mature and formal. Just empathize that back then, everything was calm and serene… almost… but still, I made them talk like that for a reason. I just want it to feel like you're actually reading a fic out of the actual date.

-J