Hey all, it long wait as always, but here we are! Thank you all so much for the reviews! I just want you to know; when I receive one I pull out the story and write more. I am so happy that people enjoy the story. Here you go, the next installment of Shadowing!
(I own nothing and no one, blah blah blah)
Tashigi walked past several stores in order to reach the one with paper and ink. She could have used to supplies on the ship, but she liked to use old style calligraphy to issue letters of challenge.
With two days to mull over her predicament, in other words wallow in misery, Tashigi finally realized that her pride would not allow her to continue acting like some lovesick girl. She would challenge Roronoa Zoro to a duel. His pride would be injured if he ran away from her demand, and more to the point he owed her for his rescue. Actually, Tashigi still was unclear on whether the swordsman knew about his rescue or his rescuer, but nonetheless as a swordsman he should come forth to battle her, especially if given a formal challenge.
A few minutes and she was on her way back to the ship, utensils in hand. The letter itself was short and to the point. She had found an isolated ravine about half a mile from the town during her wanderings. The landscape there would make and excellent locale for their battle, and have the benefit of limiting the possibility of Zoro running away. She was confident in her abilities, but it was always confusing to her that a man of Zoro's caliber would simply flee, especially having defeated her once. Oh and the rage that memory brought to her. Defeated, yet denied the honorable death that should have been dealt to her, likely because she was a woman. Well, she'd make him pay for treating her as less simply due to her gender.
This battle would prove her worth to herself and the pirate hunter, not to mention convincing the man that this was the reason she'd been following him around, certainly not just to 'moon over him' as Captain Smoker was fond of saying. If he knew about her following him, or about her taking him to the cook's place, this should explain it nicely. She'd defeat him, hopefully, and then could finish her time in dry dock with her pride intact.
Challenge completed, Tashigi sealed the letter with wax and made her way off the ship. A few steps toward the Mugiwara's ship had her doing an about face. She couldn't simply walk up to a pirate ship; couldn't bear the embarrassment of interacting with Zoro right now. Not that she had any reason to be embarrassed. There was nothing wrong with admiring a well-toned physique, even if it belonged to a pirate who wielded one of the Meitou she swore she would retrieve from all those unworthy to wield them.
With a sigh Tashigi faced up to the fact that she was pathetic. This hadn't been about Zoro's swords for a while now. She could swallow her pride and admit, at least to herself, that she liked the moss-brained moron that she had been stalking. Admitting that to said idiot, or anyone else for that matter, was never going to happen. At least in defeating him she could keep her pride.
"Oof-" Tashigi nearly fell over as she crashed into someone's chest. An arm caught her and kept her upright. She couldn't believe her clumsiness sometimes; at least this gentleman had kept her from falling on her rear. If it was Zoro, she would stab herself at the irony.
"Oh pardon me, mademoiselle, how could I be so inattentive as to lumber into such a vision of-"
"Just stop. Right there." Tashigi had looked past long legs, up the suit-clad torso and into the slathering face of Sanji. Honestly, the man would be at least halfway attractive if he could just stop that spewing nonsense at every woman he saw. It made her blood boil, and she stopped him cold.
For his part, Sanji was floored. This delicate flower, so beautiful, but so...abrupt.
"Yes, may I help you?" Sanji was nothing if not gracious to the fairer sex. He started a bit as a folded paper was thrust into his hand.
"I need you to give that to Roronoa Zoro, as soon as possible." She met his gaze, as he stood nonplussed...perhaps she'd been a bit too harsh. "Please?"
The please did it; the blond man appeared to be well mannered if a bit schmoozy.
"Yes, of course...miss. Is there anything else, or anything you wish me to tell him?"
"No, everything is in that letter; I will meet him this evening. Thank you."
Sanji frowned a bit, either due to her seeming desire of a rendezvous with Zoro of all people, or simply her very direct speech.
"As you wish." And the man nodded and moved past her towards the ship.
The cook couldn't believe that the beautiful swords woman could possibly be interested in that seaweed brained oaf, but who was he to deny such a flower any request. He had the saffron he'd went out to buy already, so going back to the ship didn't interrupt his dinner plans.
The letter crumpled in Zoro's clenched fist, as he stormed off the ship. That bastard.
Zoro would have liked to shave that condescending smirk off the ero-cook's face with his sword, and would have done so, if he hadn't been floored at Tashigi's demand for a duel.
He had spent days trying to understand why Tashigi would have dragged him off to the cook's place, how the hell she'd known to do so in the first place, and in the end couldn't fathom it. He'd just decided today that he didn't actually care why the woman had done so, nor that she was around at all, when the letter sent by ero-mail via Sanji, had been handed over to him. At the very least Sanji had kept the expounding on her virtues to a minimum, for which Zoro was grateful, although he didn't know why such a miracle had occurred.
Zoro knew that it irked the swordswoman that he wouldn't fight her. Her pride was damaged at his refusal to take her life in defeat, and she believed that it was only due to her being a woman that he wouldn't honor her pride. It just proved that Tashigi was a naïve idiot. Zoro had killed many people, women being no exception, but he saw no reason to spill the blood of another combatant when he was fairly convinced that she would let him live if the situation were reversed. That, combined with her being the near clone of Kuina, made it nearly impossible to fight her to completion.
Zoro groaned as he ground the heel of his hand into his eyes. He should just go and cram the note down her throat. That might shut her up. What truly grated on the pirate hunter was that she was right. He did owe her for saving his life, and while his own honor might be somewhat tarnished, he knew he should fight her fairly as per her wishes. Her letter left no doubt that her honor would only be satisfied with a duel.
I have saved your life and demand you oblige me. I challenge you to a duel, at sunset, at the box canyon outside of town. Arrive and battle me and I'll consider us even.
It was blunt and even as he'd read it, Zoro could imaging all the scathing remarks that the Sergeant-Major had swallowed to make the missive remotely polite. His blood burned with the urge to give her a good thrashing, but a large part of him wanted nothing more than to never see the irritating woman again. Her presence and appearance made his life hell. And now he owed her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~At the box canyon~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Late afternoon was slowly turning into evening as Tashigi sat on the most comfortable rock she could find in her choice of battleground. The canyon was an excellent arena for combat, three tall wide sides and some boulders for terrain. It was remote, clear, and had minimal opportunities for flight. Her battle could commence with Zoro and go to fruition, her honor being satisfied and his meitou being removed. This would be the perfect end to her day if the green-haired bastard would just…show…UP!
Tashigi had grabbed a late lunch and taken left-over's out of town. She figured as the challenge issuing party it would be better if she were on the scene when Zoro arrived. She was ready and determined, but as evening slowly slipped into night she began to wonder if Zoro had chosen not to arrive.
As night fell, and the moonlight lit the canyon, Tashigi had nearly convinced herself to leave when she heard voices. Drawing her Meitou and waiting, she was surprised to realize that a group was coming this way. Had the buffoon brought his entire crew?
As figures began to appear, Tashigi found the hulking form that could only belong to the swordsman or an ape.
"Roronoa Zoro, I see you've come to meet my challenge. You can consider your obligation to me met as soon as our swords clash." With that she drew her sword and waited for the swordsman to prepare himself. After a few moments of the man standing there, while his companions moved around in the darkness, perhaps to set up a place to watch or eat, her patience snapped.
"Well? I don't know why you needed your whole crew to watch our battle, is this some kind of dinner show to you? I demand satisfaction. Fight me now or consider yourself an honorless coward."
A chuckle came from the swordsman, as he finally drew his sword, a very unfamiliar chuckle.
"You hear that boys, I'm an honorless coward now, I think that's even worse than calling me that damned pirate hunter. You were stupid to come out here, girlie, for a battle or anything else. This area is used for business, and you'll turn an excellent profit when I turn you over to the Monger."
Tashigi's eyes widened as she realized that her bad vision had, once again, caused her unforeseen trouble, and as she heard more chuckles and the drawing of at least half a dozen swords, she began to wonder if she'd just taken on more trouble than she could handle.
Nonetheless, no one could ever call her a coward. Tashigi dropped into a low stance and pointed her blade at the man who had spoken.
"Bring it on, you vile slaver scum." She lunged toward her enemy as her battle cry rang through the night.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The middle of nowhere~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Zoro cursed again as he tripped over a tree root. How the hell had he managed to get stuck in town for so long? After inexplicably staring at the ocean for the fourth time since setting out for the boxed canyon, Zoro had asked/threatened, a nearby fisherman into taking him to the edge of town. Now, hours later, he was still hunting for the stupid canyon that the extremely stupid Sergeant Major had demanded he arrive at. With the amount of time he'd spent in town and wandering the landscape it had to be nearly midnight when Zoro finally reached the canyon.
He didn't see Tashigi, and doubted she would attempt to surprise him. As he moved through the canyon his battle sense easily realized that not only was he alone, but that it was unlikely that the swordswoman had just gone home.
Blood painted the floor in the center of the canyon, small pools and splashed coated a few of the rocks, and at least one large puddle had to be from a person bleeding out. Even by moonlight He could make out the foot work of the battle, and the bodies that had been dragged away. Nearly a dozen people battled, one against the rest. The lightness of footprint showed that it was likely Tashigi that fought against the large force. She had held her own against three, no four, opponents before the dirty tactic of kicking dirt at her had likely slowed her up. It was almost humorous that the woman, who could barely see on a good day, had been downed by such a move. After that another three had overwhelmed her, and by the small amount of blood had likely injured her in some way. Then she and the rest of the bodies had been dragged away, leaving only foot prints and grizzly blood fall as evidence of the battle.
Zoro ground his teeth and glared. He hadn't given a damn about Tashigi or her quest to take his swords. He didn't care that she had saved him, and would be pleased to never deal with her again. These were the things he told himself even as he knew they were lies.
He was under obligation to her for saving him, and it simply wasn't in his nature to ignore the evidence of her capture and go about his business. He didn't want to rescue her, nor did he know how to go about doing so. He was also damned certain that she wouldn't appreciate his attempt at help, but he felt he was left with no choice.
"There is going to be hell to pay for this." He ground out as he made his way back to town.
Bwahahha! T-chan wasn't smart or lucky in her choice of battleground. At least there is a possibility of Zoro helping her out. Now as with Zoro getting knocked out a few chapters ago I just want to note one thing. I know these two are amazingly awesome and it may be a bit ooc for them to be defeated at all, but I hope people don't think I have made either of them wimpy. I hope people enjoy this chapter!
Please review; flames will be used to toast marshmallows on my camping trip this weekend!