Title: The Hunter and the Sparrow
Fandom: Okami
Characters/Pairing: Hunter, Sparrow
Rating: PG
Word Count: 480





He chases the cat away without really thinking about it, shouting and stomping and waving his father’s hunting knife over his head until the animal hisses at him, fur standing on end, and goes running off into the underbrush. The poor creature it had been batting around – a little sparrow, just barely a fledgling – lies motionless as he approaches, and he thinks perhaps he was too late to save it.

He kneels down to scoop the small body up in his hand and is relieved to feel the rise and fall of its chest, the frantic beat of its tiny heart against his fingertips. Its feathers are still downy and impossibly soft.

His father would have been furious if he’d been there to see this. He’d just interrupted nature’s game of hunter and prey. The hunter had won this round, and it deserved to eat its meal and live to hunt another day. But the cat had been playing, not striking out of hunger, and the little bird was so small it hardly seemed fair. He is too soft-hearted for this game.

The sparrow holds its wing out limply to one side, and if he looks closely, he can see where the cat’s teeth have torn their way through feather and skin. His father would say he has only extended its suffering. The proper thing would be to end it quickly. But as he reluctantly fingers the handle of his borrowed knife, contemplating how best to do it painlessly, the sparrow turns its head and looks at him.

And its expression is completely clear to him, unhindered by the boundaries of their differing species. It is wary but hopeful. There is gratitude and trust and all manner of things that should not exist in the simple black eyes of a sparrow. He is obviously not meeting the gaze of a dumb, frightened animal.

He tucks the knife away, cradles the bird carefully against his chest, and turns to head home.

---

Many years later, after he has grown into a man and a finer hunter than even his great father, he will find Sasa Sanctuary as most do – by being generally good-hearted and wandering unwittingly through the gate – and he will react to its existence as most do – believing he is dreaming or has simply gone mad.

The little sparrow woman attending to him will sneak glances at his face as she brings him plate after plate of their finest foods – and he has never in his simple life had the money to afford such treatment – and he will watch her curiously. It is ridiculous, of course – he would have remembered a talking sparrow – but something strikes him as familiar about her.

Then he will notice, as she lifts an empty dish and her sleeve shifts higher, the old scar, long and jagged, running all the way across her wing.