labyrinthmess: (whut)
[personal profile] labyrinthmess
Title: Thieves, Like Books, Should Not Be Judged By Their Covers (You never know what you find once they open up)
Genre: Fantasy/RPG-AU, Humour, Friendship.
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Sakata Ginko/Tsukuo, Kamui, with mentions of Hinowa and Housen, and a cameo by Mysterious Person A.
Warnings: Genderbending, mild language, crack.
Summary: Sakata Ginko was the best thief in Housen's gang of pickpockets, never failing to evade capture, until she tried stealing from the apprentice mage, Tsukuo and got more than she'd bargained for. Figuratively speaking, of course (because thieves don't bargain, they nick things, dammit). Hilarity ensues.

A/N: For [livejournal.com profile] waketozee, who requested for genderbent!GinTsu eons ago. Sorry this took so long, dearie!


~.*.~


It was not in her nature to be industrious, but after a long morning of napping, Sakata Ginko was eager to do something else — which was almost unheard of, as anyone who knew her well enough would say. Given the choice, she could sleep through days on end, staying awake long enough to feed herself, before heading to the river to relieve herself. But for some days, she could only be bored for so long — today was one of those days. Besides, if she didn't bring anything back by dusk, Housen would be very displeased.

Ginko didn't care much for the old geezer; she was sure she could beat him into a pulp if it was just a one-on-one fight between the two. The trouble was, Housen very rarely was alone, and his boys would only be too pleased to be allowed to bash Ginko repeatedly over the head. She wasn’t afraid to fight those cowards of course, and on most days, she bested them all in their petty street brawls. But when commanded to fight as a unit under Housen’s watchful eye, even Ginko could not last against twenty-odd boys and their torrent of kicks and punches, all well-aimed to take her down within two minutes. Three, if she was feeling particularly stubborn.

Housen was careful however to never let the beatings go on longer they needed; she was still his prized rat, the fastest hand in his gang of thieving thieves. When had she ever failed to bring back the bounty, huge enough for him to wine and dine gluttonously for two weeks?

For one fleeting moment, Ginko was almost proud of this feat (there was little she could be proud of in her miserable sixteen years of life, after all). It was gone as almost as quickly as it had appeared however; all Ginko felt now in its place was disgust. Only fools like Housen would content with such titles like 'King of the Street’ or 'Fastest Pickpocketing Hand'. Besides, she reasoned, how difficult was it to snatch money pouches away if they were practically hanging off people's belts? They may as well hold up a sign inked with bold-text screaming out "ROB ME! I’M FILTHY RICH, I HAVE MONEY!"

Muddled in between the feelings of disgust were also tiny pangs of guilt. Annoyed, Ginko willed for the guilt to disappear and succeeded quite easily, shooing them into the furthest recesses of her mind. She couldn't stop her conscience from working, but she could always choose to not listen. In most cases, it even worked long enough for her to forget what she'd been feeling bad about in the first place.

Ginko yawned, carding her fingers through her shock of messy pale hair, before she began to scout around the small village town of Rarrapurratar for any likely victims. Hanging about the street pavements wasn't going to help, so she decided to head down the busier end of town towards Telford Market, to where the brightly coloured stalls and shops were.

It was just past noon, but there was still a sizeable crowd, which consisted mostly of students from the nearby Avalon Academy. Ginko didn't so much as give the boys a quick glance over, feigning disinterest, but a single gaze was enough for her to assess them as potential targets. Just as she'd been trained to do, she watched them from the corner of her eyes, slipping easily into the crowd and posing as a nameless nobody, a poor ragamuffin of a girl who limped clumsily about with a wooden stick as her crutch, never taking her gaze off the bounty — the small pouch-like velvet bags hanging off the boys' belts, fat with riches. She could almost hear the money pouches singing out her name, calling for her in rich, luscious metallic tinkles like a symphony of raining gold coins.

"So Tsukuo," said one of the boys, a tall and gangly teenager sporting short black hair. "When are you going to show us that new Nimbus3000 broomstick Hinowa got for you?"

"Yeah, don't play dumb with us!" quipped the second boy, who was bobbing his head enthusiastically. "We heard that she threw you a huge birthday bash and even invited the Four Grand Nobles to tea!"

Ginko listened on with interest, moving in closer so that she now stood almost side-by-side the three boys in the crowd. They were all dressed in the same navy blue cloaks over their white-shirt-and-black-pants uniforms: apprentice mages from the Avalon Academy. The boy named Tsukuo wore a scarlet silk sash around his neck, and as Ginko stole yet another glance over at him, she noticed two faded scars on the left side of his face — one over his eye, under a shock of gold hair, and another across his cheek.

“Boys these days and their fake tattoo scars,” Ginko scoffed quietly, very nearly bursting out in laughter at the sight. “Do they really think a ten-year-old’s chicken-scratched lines will help them magically grow sex appeal even before they’ve filled out the two empty sacks dangling between their legs? Geez.”

Well, whatever his reasons were for sporting hand-drawn scars across his face, Ginko was certain that this Tsukuo boy wasn’t just your average mage novice — not from all the talk of Nimbuses and tea parties with high-ranking Nobles. That was a good enough reason for Ginko to continue trailing stealthily after the boys as they picked their way through the crowd and down the road leading away from the busy market.

"I'll be on my way then," Tsukuo said as the trio approached a junction. "See you guys tomorrow."

"Later, Tsukuo!” His friends called as they parted ways. Tsukuo watched the two run off down street on the left, throwing friendly punches at each other. He waved good-bye and took the opposite road, scuffing his shoes lightly against the cobblestones. Ginko did not follow him immediately, keeping herself hidden amidst the row of hedgerows that lined the sidewalks for several more heartbeats. She slipped her fake walking-stick (which was really a wooden sword) under her belt, before slowly stepping out and trailing after the boy.

Tsukuo continued down the street, seemingly oblivious that he was now being stalked by a pickpocket lurking just out of sight. Just as Ginko wondered about the best time to strike, Tsukuo abruptly halted in his steps, his gaze trained downwards as he crouched to his knees. One of his shoelaces had come undone and he’d bent over to tie it.

Ginko saw her opening and took it. She dashed towards him, silent as a cat, a small knife in her hand now. With a swift flick her fingers, she deftly cut the pouch free from the boy’s belt.

Too easy! she thought gleefully as she grabbed the pouch, feeling the gold coins clinking softly together through the velvet fabric. As easy as taking candy from a snot-faced brat who thinks everyone plays fair! Well too bad kiddo, time for you to wake up and smell the doggie poo you’ve just stepped in! The world is a cruel, beautiful place and- e-ehhh?!

Just as Ginko was about to make her quick getaway, she felt fingers clasping firmly around her wrist, jerking her backwards.

“I’m sorry, miss,” Tsukuo said, tightening his hold around her as Ginko struggled, limbs flailing about as if she was a freshly caught octopus dragged out of sea. “But I do believe that pouch rightfully belongs to me.”

The boy’s voice was calm, but Ginko didn’t miss the thinly-veiled warning his tone. She met his gaze with a coquettish smile, before she raised her free arm to her forehead, feigning dizziness. “Oh, but kind sir, can’t you spare a bit of change?” She stretched her hand towards him, waving it weakly like rubber putty. “I am but a poor malnourished girl, hungry and feverish for just a bite.”

“Your arms look pretty healthy to me,” Tsukuo retorted drily, not even batting an eyelid. He glanced over at Ginko’s underarms, pinching at flabby flesh.

Ginko froze, lifting her head mechanically to gaze at him in shock.

“A-are you saying that I’m fat?”

“No, I’m just saying that your healthy, chubby arms are a sure sign of prosperity.”

Ginko nearly keeled over in a dramatic show of horror at his words. She pulled her arm free, her face now contorted into the most injured, the most scandalized expression she could muster. “After all the pains the writer took to avoid any active description of our physical attributes! And yet, here you bring it up so easily like… like frivolous gossip among fishwives! Oh you vile, you horrible… how dare you.” She turned her face away, bawling effusively into the sleeve of her white tunic, staining it with forced tears and snot-swirls that incidentally, matched the blue swirl patterns embroidered on the hems.

(Here, the writer attempts to add some descriptors, to help readers have an approximate idea of what her clothes look like – she is the main character, after all!)

At the sound and sight of Ginko's gross sobbing, Tsukuo looked decidedly more uncomfortable, lifting a finger to tap at his tattoo-scarred cheek as he considered how best to handle this delicate turn of events.

"My apologies, miss," he began, reaching out for her tentatively.

"Don't come near me!" Ginko cried, still weeping into her sleeve. "And don't gaze at my under arms, my wrenched heart can no longer handle the deep-seated judgment within those cruel eyes of yours! It's like they are screaming 'FATASS' at me right now!"

Tsukuo opened his mouth to protest, but Ginko looked on the verge of bawling again. So he averted his eyes instead, casting his gaze at his shoes and the yellow flowers peeking out from in-between the cracks in between the cobblestones.

"Look, I apologise if it sounded like I was insulting you and—"

And he never got to finish, because there was the pit-a-patter of feet making a hasty retreat, followed by what sounded suspiciously like obnoxious laughter and a mocking cry of See you, Space Cowboy!

Where Ginko had been standing a moment ago, there was only an ugly tumbleweed swirling around the dust — the girl had already dashed several metres ahead, fleeing like a fox in a foxhunt.

"Hey!" Tsukuo yelled angrily after her.

Ginko could only laugh again as she sped onwards, putting as much distance between herself and the boy. He would never be able to catch her; she was too fleet-footed.

"I'd really hate to repeat myself," she heard Tsukuo calling out to her, and this time, his voice was surprisingly close by, "but in case you missed the earlier memo, that pouch is mine. So give it back here right now!"

Ginko spared a glance over her shoulder and saw that he was catching up with her, sprinting along just a few leaps behind her.

"Satan's flaming buttocks," she swore as she sprinted harder, determined to leave him behind. But after several long seconds of running, it was clear that she wouldn't be losing him anytime soon. No matter how fast she ran, she couldn't shake him off her tail.

This is impossible! Ginko thought worriedly. No one has lasted two minutes chasing after me and yet he's right behind me!

It seems like she'd have to revert to Plan B, which was, of course, Ginko's back-up plan for emergencies. There was always a backup plan for every situation in a story. If there wasn't, then it is quite possible that you're not actually part of a story and are, in fact, a real-life person just procrastinating on the internet reading fan-fiction in a bid to avoid doing schoolwork... Is the writer breaking the fourth wall or just pulling a fic-ception? Ginko couldn't tell anymore.

"QUIT STALLING AND CONTINUE WITH THE NARRATIVE ALREADY, DAMMIT!" she yelled upwards at the sky.

Throughout the chase, the two had only been running along the side pavements, zig-zagging around street lamps and brushing past the lines of neatly-trimmed hedgerows. As she dashed past another line of flowering shrubs, she spotted rows of brick fences up ahead. She ran straight on, judging the distance swiftly and with all of her strength, propelled herself to jump five feet upwards. She landed lightly on top of the fence, and once she'd righted her balance, she continued sprinting along the fence and back towards the opposite direction.

Tsukuo skidded to a halt, mouth agape as he stared after her. Ginko snickered when she saw the stunned look upon the boy's face.

"Now you know who you're dealing with! Take that, loser!" she called back triumphantly.

Ginko would have gotten away easily then. Tsukuo wasn't the first person who tried to give chase once they realised Ginko had nicked their money pouch. But Ginko was Housen's best pickpocket for a reason — she was the fastest sprinter in the gang and the most efficient at evading capture. Even if they could keep up with her, most are stumped once Ginko began jumping and climbing up fences and buildings. They would already be winded from all the running, and by the time they figured out a way to get a foothold up the fence, Ginko would be long gone. This boy would have it no different from the rest.

But what was this? Ginko thought she heard scrabbling sounds, followed by a thud, and now, approaching footsteps... it sounded as if someone had scaled the brick fence and was tearing down after her.

"Oh, fuck no," she swore loudly.

"Don't you ever get tired of such infantile games?" Tsukuo scowled at her, closing the gap between them as he raced towards her. "Now give me back my money!"

"Not until you actually catch me!" Ginko yelled, sticking her tongue out childishly at him. Secretly, she was amazed by this boy, almost to the point of admiration. She'd always thought those of the upper-class, both the socialites and nobles and their greasy pygmy-faced children were a foul lot — ostentatious, odious and overfed, in every manner of the word, literally and figuratively.

And yet this boy — this privileged, spoilt brat living in the lap of luxury — had the nerve to not only be pleasant-looking, but to also keep up with her, even when she was running along on top of a fence!

They were rapidly reaching the corner of the road; soon there wouldn’t be any more brick fences to jump or run on. Ginko looked up and saw a huge beech tree by the corner...

Well, here goes!

As soon as her feet touched the edge of the fence, she was up in the air again, throwing herself forward as she jumped towards the tree, landing unto a thick branch. She didn't just stop there — she continued on, pushing through the leaves and climbed to the next branch easily. This time, she was certain she would lose him. She was already in the act of leaping towards the neighbouring oak tree, when there was a flash of movement, a blur of navy and scarlet, and from the corner of her eye, she saw Tsukuo leaping towards her from the oak tree before colliding with her in mid-air.

"Aaarrggh!" Ginko shrieked as they both lost themselves to gravity, crashing through the foliage, feeling leaves raking across their faces.

"Oof—!"Tsukuo's fall was broken when he slammed chest-first unto one of the branches. Ginko fell past him, missing the branch entirely. But Tsukuo reached out for her, grabbing at her hand. The shock of the fall jarred her entire body and Ginko had to squeeze her eyes shut to stop her head from spinning uncontrollably.

Before either of them could move an inch further, there was a loud, ear-grating creak and a sharp jerk. And then—

CRASH!!

—the two were falling yet again. Tsukuo hit the ground first, gasping sharply as the air was knocked right out of him just as Ginko came tumbling down on him. There was a sound like metal clinking against each other, and gold coins rained over them, followed by the half-empty money pouch and Ginko's wooden sword, both which smacked her right over the head.

*

They lay like that for several shallow gasps and heartbeats: Tsukuo flat upon his back, with Ginko draped unceremoniously over his chest — both too winded, too tired to speak.

"Well, I've caught you," Tsukuo wheezed painfully at length, propping himself up against his elbows as he tried to move. "Now can I have my money back?"

Head still spinning, Ginko could only groan in pain. She wriggled her arms, checking that they weren't broken or bent out of shape after all that crashing and falling. She was well aware that she was still on top of Tsukuo, and that the boy was becoming fairly uncomfortable from having her dead weight pressing against his chest.

That'll teach you for calling me fat, she thought spitefully. His obvious discomfort pleased her to no end and what better than to prolong his suffering by remaining supposedly oblivious to the fact that she was gradually crushing his ribcage. She was about to reply him with a snide remark when she caught sight of Tsukuo's tattooed scars. Now that she had an unmistakably clear view of his face, she realised they were actual scars.

“Hey, these aren’t actually fake!” Ginko exclaimed in surprise.

“I know, I never thought they were,” Tsukuo said slowly, head cocked sideways. Ginko could only raise an eyebrow in confusion. How did he know she was referring to his scars… ? She let out a startled yelp when Tsukuo tapped the front of her tunic, at her chest.

“I mean, they do seem a lot perkier than I’d initially thought. Then again, I really shouldn’t be comparing yours to Hinowa’s; she is getting on in age. And I suppose hers would be a lot more saggy than a budding teenaged girl’s…”

Ginko bristled angrily, punching his shoulder. “You don’t touch a girl without her permission!”

“Ow! Yes, okay, I apologise for that–”

“And are you insinuating that my boobs are not pert enough?” Ginko hissed, the veins under her eyes bulging and twitching like worms squirming underneath wet sand. “And even mentally comparing them with your grandmother’s half-empty milk sacks?”

“Well, they definitely are in good-enough shape, so I can see why you’d be concerned about how I might think of them as fake implants—”

“I wasn’t talking about my boobs being fake!” Ginko snapped. “I was referring to those scars on your face.”

"These scars...," Tsukuo brushed his fingers over one of the jagged marks across his cheek, before letting out a self-depreciating chuckle, his face now morphing into an expression of grimness. "I would say more, but I don't feel like I need to explain myself, especially not to a petty thief."

"Oi, oi, what's with all this gruff talk? If you're trying to sound like the victimized, unsung hero, you're in the wrong story! This is a Gin Tama fan-fiction and I'm Ginko. So I'm the hero of this story, got it?"

Tsukuo blinked quizzically at her. "So you're saying you possess silver balls? Or that you're just a giant dick? Well, I can see the second one wouldn’t be too far off the mark, but it’d be quite the gamble — casting the series protagonist in such a negative light. Then again, the concept of the anti-hero is growing in popularity lately..."

There was genuine confusion in his tone as he spoke, brows furrowed tightly as he considered the implications of her words. For Ginko's part however, she was just barely able to contain herself from blowing up at him. She proceeded to do so anyway, regardless.

Blow up at him, that is.

(The writer suspects that possibly a small percentage of you misread that as blow him instead, and would like to kindly remind you that this fan-fiction is rated T, so please do retrieve your filthy mind out of the gutter you horny bastards. Thank you.)

"It's 銀魂!!" Ginko howled angrily, tearing at curly strands of her hair. "Not Kintama, not silver balls, but silver soul! Silver soul. Got it, you perverted sleazebag?!"

"My, my, quite the tetchy one this early 'noon, aren't you, my silver-haired friend?"

At the sound of the new voice, Ginko and Tsukuo both turned their gazes upwards. There was the crunch of boots over gravel, before a figure loomed over them, blocking out the glare of the sun.

"Oh, what's this? A lovers' spat?" The newcomer's face was hidden in the shadows cast by the towering violet parasol he held. Ginko didn't need to see his face to recognise the man however. That stiff swagger and the deceptively innocent grin were dead giveaways, not to mention the stink of egotistical arrogance emanating in repugnant tendrils from the very core of his being.

"I don't ever recall us being friends, Kamui." Ginko said coolly, dusting herself off as she climbed back up to her feet.

"We're not lovers," Tsukuo added, glowering at the taller man before throwing an icy glare back at Ginko. "Besides, I find it difficult to believe anyone still in possession of their wits would wish to court this degenerate."

"Hey! I resent that!"

"Good. That was the point."

"—You smartass prick, I'll have you know, I'm an upstanding model citizen—"

"—so says the thief who goes around gratuitously picking the pockets of hardworking civilians—"

"I-I was only performing my civic duty and helping to clear their pockets of unnecessary and unwanted extras. In fact, I should be thanked for taking the initiative!"

"Feh, if that was civic duty, then perhaps I should carry out my civic duty by handing you over to the authorities. And you can thank me when I visit you behind bars!"

Kamui clicked his tongue as he watched the two, his grin growing wider with amusement. "Ah, to be young and in love. Isn't it just a wonderful time to be alive?"

Ginko curled her lip in disgust at the remark, one finger picking at her ear as she turned her back on the man. "What are you playing at, Kamui? It's not like you to go nosing about my business."

"You cut me deep with your words, pretty one. I'm just here to pick up what's mine," Kamui replied simply, reaching forward to snatch the money pouch from the ground. "I don't think I've ever seen you lose your catch before," he said, circling the girl like a hungry wolf sniffing its prey. "It's as if a cat had fallen out of the tree and did not land on its feet. You must be losing your touch, Ginko! Though I suppose it's comes as no surprise. You are only a girl, after all. "

Ginko felt anger and resentment bubbling like bile within her. Failing to escape after an attempted theft was one thing — and Ginko never failed... at least, not till now. But failing, and then falling out of a tree and crash-landing on the ground and embarrassing herself right before Kamui, Housen's trusted right-hand man? It was shameful enough. She knew the man was only goading her, coaxing her to lose her cool, but she refused to play right into his hands.

You may fool Housen with your false boot-licking charades, but I know better than to trust you.

Tsukuo remained silent, his face but a stoic mask, but Ginko didn't miss the flicker of repulse in the boy's eyes, the angry clench of his fists. She gave him a fleeting glance, meeting his gaze for the briefest of moments, before turning back to Kamui again.

"Well," Kamui continued lazily, toying with the money pouch in his hands. "No matter, because I'm always here to pick up after you—"

"Give it back to him," Ginko cut in.

"—Eh?" Kamui's innocent smile froze upon his lips. "Did I hear you correctly?"

Ginko licked her lips tentatively, trying to push away the cold rise of dread in her gut. "I said, give him back the pouch. He was my target and I picked his pockets... or at least, I tried to. But I couldn't shake him off and he even caught me in the end. So, he rightfully wins this round."

Both Kamui and Tsukuo stared incredulously at her, but where Tsukuo's face had brightened considerably with something akin to awe, Kamui's had darkened with severity.

"This isn't a game, Sakata," Kamui's growl was low and threatening. "Even if it were, we don't play by those rules. You know that."

"But he was my target; so this game of catch is played by my rules." Ginko said stubbornly. She knew it was dangerous to challenge him; Kamui was older, a veteran and cruel fighter.  While Ginko wasn't afraid of him, she wasn't stupid either, and though she knew she was pushing her luck with this show of bravado, her pride refused to back down to a bully. She took a step forward, before feeling a familiar warmth circling around her wrist. She glanced back, surprised to see Tsukuo's hand around hers.

"Wait, let him keep it." Tsukuo said, holding her back. Then, in a softer tone meant only for her ears, "He will hurt you."

Ginko only smiled cheekily, trying to reassure him. "Don't worry," she whispered conspiratorially back, "Kamui may be stronger, but I'm much faster on my feet. All I have to do is just dodge his blows and—"

"Oh, Ginko dear, surely you didn't think I was all alone, did you?"

The sound of Kamui's laugh and approaching footsteps wrested the two's attention back to the situation at hand. Two surly-looking goons, both taller and bulkier than Ginko and Tsukuo combined, had appeared by Kamui's side. Ginko knew them of course, but she could never be arsed to remember their names, so she'd always just mentally dubbed them as Dumb and Dumber.

"I'm sure you're fairly acquainted with the boys but I suppose it never hurts to have a proper re-introduction." Kamui nodded at the two to step forward. "Meet Trouble and Strife, named so because that’s what you get if you mess with them or if you get married. Get it? Ha ha!"

Ba-dum tssh.

....

Yeaaahh okay, Dumber and Dumber suited them a lot better.

“If that was your idea of a joke, I suggest you brush up on your punch lines.” Ginko said, lips quirked into an insolent smirk. She drew the wooden sword from her side, pointing it at Kamui. “Because honestly? You really suck at playing the comedian.”

“At the risk of spouting an extremely overused cliché,” Kamui still wore his Cheshire grin but his blue eyes were blazing now, “we’ll just wait and see who has the last laugh after this, won’t we?”

He flicked his arm once and in a flurry of movements, the two goons charged straight at Ginko, fists raised and ready for a crushing blow. But Ginko was more agile than either of them and she side-stepped easily, dodging the first punch and then ducking under the second, cackling wickedly when Dumb — or was it Dumber? She couldn’t tell; they both look just as stupid — crashed into the tree.

While Dumber — no wait, maybe that was Dumb... actually, who gives a shit? They're all nitwits — was groaning and doubled-up in pain, Ginko turned to face her other opponent. She dodged the punch aimed at her head, parrying it with her wooden sword before twirling again like a whirlwind with a vengeance, dealing a blow to the man's back. Dumber made a gurgling noise, like a dying whale, before tripping over Ginko's outstretched foot and planting his face into the dirt, conveniently knocking himself out.

"How does it feel to have your ugly mugs smashed in by a little girl, ya punks?" Ginko said smugly, fist-pumping into the air as she whooped and flounced about.

The brawl should have easily ended there with Ginko as the champion, but Kamui was no petty street brawler. He was a seasoned fighter and he did not wait for Ginko to finish her obnoxious victory dance, moving in swiftly, before leaping into the air with his parasol poised for an attack.

"Ginko, behind you!" Tsukuo cried, but the warning came a second too late. Ginko tried to dodge but Kamui was faster. She felt a spike of white-hot pain along her left arm and up her shoulder just as she twisted her body out of harm's way, the steel tip of Kamui's parasol grazing into her flesh. She cursed, biting back a noise of pain before she charged forward once more.

Kamui's demented grin grew ever more as he rushed to meet Ginko head-on, only to have her veer away from him at the last possible moment. Ginko swung her sword in a wide arc, aiming for his unguarded right flank, but Kamui had already anticipated her movements and intercepted her strike easily with his parasol. There was a grinding clash of metal against wood, the two locked in a struggle, before Ginko was overpowered by Kamui's brute strength and she fell backwards. She hacked painfully when Kamui drove his boot to the centre of her torso, sending her skidding across the ground.

"This ends now." Kamui snarled, rushing at her, parasol raised for a finishing blow—

—only to have Tsukuo lunge at him, tackling him and knocking him off his feet. Kamui gave a hiss of surprise, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. When he finally got his bearings right again, he could taste metal on his tongue and feel a sticky wetness trailing down the side of his jaw. Ginko had gotten back on her feet and joined Tsukuo's side, the two now facing him with their fists and weapons raised – a scene that only made Kamui throw back his head and laugh maniacally.

Ginko bristled, but held her ground. Tsukuo said nothing, his gaze still trained firmly on the man.

"Ahh, you two sure know how to throw a party. I haven't had this much fun in years." Kamui said, spitting blood on the ground. His sapphire-blue eyes were aflame with a hungry bloodlust. "I will thoroughly enjoy wrenching all the limbs from your body and having the last laugh while I'm at it." He charged towards them, swinging his parasol out and above him in a deadly arc.

Ginko braced herself for the impact that was sure to hit them within seconds. She had no intention of giving up so easily and allowing Kamui beat the crap out of her of course, but she knew that even with a scrawny rich brat fighting by her side, they were no match for Housen's best fighter.

She was poised to meet the onslaught Kamui's attack, but Tsukuo moved in first, swiftly like a cat. Hissing a quick “Duck!”, he kicked Ginko back down on the ground, before he drew his arms out from within the folds of his cloak, throwing his arms outwards at Kamui's direction.

"O-oi, what the hell—?!" Ginko yelped, tumbling into the dirt and choking on a mouthful of weeds. She could hear whizzing sounds from all around her. Lifting her gaze, she saw a flurry of short, steel knives flying at Kamui from all angles, cutting through the air like speeding arrowheads. Kamui twisted away, barely avoiding most of the knives, the blunt serrated edges gashing, scraping over fabric and flesh, before plunging blade-first into the ground in a neat circle around him.

Tsukuo clasped his palms together, murmuring a string of incorrigible spells just as the knives hit their target. There was a rumbling sound, like thunder, and blue spirals of magic emerged from the ground where the blade-tips were buried, surging upwards through the cracks and engulfing Kamui in bursts of magical energy. As the waves of magic continued to sweep over the man, Tsukuo quickly reached for Ginko by the arm, tugging her after him. The magic rumbled and roared like a storm at sea, sparks and waves twisting in tight, angry coils of energy before crashing back and imploding upon itself.

By the time the last of the smoke and blue waves had dissipated, leaving only a very dishevelled and slightly injured Kamui, there was no sign of either the girl or the scarred-face boy.

"Huh," Kamui hummed as he licked the blood from his palm. It was not his own. "Guess the joke's on me this time."

He grinned his Cheshire smile, his impeccably white teeth now rimmed with red.

*

“I think we’ve lost him,” Tsukuo said, coming to a halt by the apothecary’s, two blocks away from where they had left Kamui in an exploding cloud of magic.

Ginko exhaled slowly in relief. N-n-not that she had been worried in the first place; she had everything under control. R-Really.

“Seriously though, what were you thinking? Challenging such a dangerous man,” Tsukuo chided softly.

Ginko rolled her eyes. Just when she thought she could get a breather after all that jazz, here she had a smart-mouthed brat lecturing her. What a pain in the arse... wait. She flinched at the thought, turning to glance down her back at where three of Tsukuo’s throwing knives were stuck neatly in her rear.

Oh. So that’s why her butt was hurting.

Tsukuo met her gaze and dipping his head apologetically, moved to help her remove the knives.

“You should really check before you start throwing knives at people,” Ginko said grumpily, wincing as Tsukuo gently plucked a knife out.

“Sorry,” Tsukuo said, his face tinged with slight embarrassment. “I did ask you to take cover though.”

Ginko tried to think of a smart comeback to that and found she didn’t have any.

“Thanks,” she said instead, much to Tsukuo’s surprise. “You didn’t have to help me, but you did anyway. And you’re right, it was kind of my fault that Kamui got all riled up like that.”

Tsukuo quirked an eyebrow. “Kind of?”

“Okay, okay, it was all my fault. Geez, you sure know how to pick on everything, don’t you? And here,” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the money pouch and tossed it back to Tsukuo. “I believe this belongs to you. Sorry for ah, losing half of it, but well, we were fighting for our lives back there.”

Tsukuo gazed at her for several seconds, before flicking his eyes at the money pouch in his hand, and back at the girl again.

“Come with me, Ginko.”

“Huh?”

“You don’t have to live like this on the streets, with the gang and with creeps like Kamui,” Tsukuo said. “If I ask Hinowa, she’ll be willing to help you, I’m sure of it.”

Ginko almost laughed at that. She was quite sure that Hinowa would hardly share the same sentiment.

“Thanks for the offer,” she said, before she leaned up on the tips of her toes, planting a quick soft kiss on Tsukuo’s scarred cheek. “But I have someone important I have to return to as well.”

With that, she chuckled and scampered off down the street.

“And don’t get cocky just because you saved me this one time,” Ginko called back haughtily, waving her arm at him. “I’ll beat you the next time we race!”

Tsukuo could only wave back awkwardly, one hand brushing at the cheek where Ginko had kissed him. It was only when he reached into his pockets that he noticed the small lunch Hinowa had packed for him had conveniently gone missing — no doubt it was now in the grimy hands of one silver-haired girl busy stuffing her face with rice balls.

He let out a tiny sigh, the corners of his lips curved into a smile.

"Idiot."
*

That evening, in a room too small to fit any more than a bed and chair, Ginko sat by a pale-faced man, watching intently as he munched at a rice ball.

“Ah, this is one of the best rice ball I’ve eaten. Are you sure you won’t try some?” said the man, holding out the rice ball. He was sickly and frail: it showed in the long, wispy hair that fell past his shoulder; in the weak quiver of his fingers. But his eyes were still youthful and kind.

Ginko put on her best cheeky grin. “Don’t worry about me, Shouyou-sensei. I’ve had lots of rice balls in the morning! Housen was, ah, very pleased with the work today, so he paid everyone well.”

The man called Shouyou only shook his head, reaching forward to pat the girl on the head. “Always the greedy one, you are, Ginko dear. I hope Housen isn’t overworking you though.”

“Nah, he’s not. Besides, better to have work and earn some gold coins than to stay hungry right?”

“And always thinking with your stomach too, I see.” Shouyou chuckled. “So, besides work, what interesting events have you experienced today?”

"What if I didn't have anything interesting to share?"

Shouyou pinched the girl's cheek fondly this time. "You do, I can tell. There's that look on your face."

Ginko snorted, smiling softly, the candlelight dancing in her eyes as she began her story.

“Well, I made a new friend today – he has the silliest looking scars on his face. And it all began with a race… ”


–End–


_____

Notes

- 銀魂, the kanji for Gin Tama.

- Ginko and Tsukuo are roughly the same age, about sixteen or so.

- Let's also just pretend they're both crazy teenagers who have mad skillz and that's how they're able to jump/scale trees and fences easily (secret RPG jump technique, go!)

- the Four Grand Nobles are the Four Devas.

- In this AU, Hinowa is an aristocrat who also runs an underground vigilante group known as the Hyakka. She is not actually Tsukuo's 'grandmother' (Ginko was just exaggerating, as usual) but is his legal guardian and mentor. She met Tsukuo when he was just a child, an orphan living off the streets and took him in.

- This fic initially started out as a simple drabble for Zee's prompt for genderbent!GinTsu: write about your OTP comforting each other. Yeah, I have no idea how it evolved into this 6000-word monster either, whoops. Partially inspired by this song.

- GINTSU IS ACTUALLY PRETTY TRICKY TO WRITE WELL… that or maybe I just don't really know how to write romance/fluff between these two without throwing in the rivalry and competitive bickering ^^;

- Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this! :')

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