A/N: Sorry for the long wait between chapters! Just haven't had time to write with uni on, but I give you an extra long chapter to make up for it and I threw in a couple of Blazing Saddles quotes for extra shits and giggles! XD
The Bounty Hunter
When you wanted something done, it was proper protocol to start a quest. This applied to both heroes and pirates. After all, there was nothing in the rule book that stated a quest taken had to be a gallant or chivalrous one. A quest was a quest by the very nature of its undertaking. There was, for example, the infamous Quest for a Shanty undertaken by the crew of the self-proclaimed King of the Pirates, Dodoria, who had grown so bored with their usual rowdy tunes that quite a lot of blood had been spilled during the arguments over which pirate shanty was the best, thus they determined to find an entirely new one. Naturally, the conclusion was a bloody one.
Most of these dangerous quests left Captain Ginyu irritable, hungry and often in need of a new crew. Indeed he had been on so many quests during his pirating years that he had sworn them off for the foreseeable future. But Fate, who Ginyu decreed could be an interfering bastard, had other plans for him. From the moment he had been handed the summons from the Palace, Ginyu had sniffed a quest on the horizon.
Grumbling, he stepped over the threshold of the Tilted Wig. It was quite empty. Most of the tavern's usual customers had either passed-out, passed away or were banged up in the dungeons at this hour. In the corner a dusty old man was playing a dusty old fiddle and a young lithe waitress with pale hair was drumming her fingers on the bar, evidently waiting for a quest to find her.
Krillen, the bald-headed, bald-minded barman and proprietor of the Tilted Wig, was busy mopping up blood and bits of leftover customers from last night's nightly brawl (scheduled Mon-Fri eight to nine on weekends). He looked up at the sound of heavy footfalls and promptly let out a high-pitched shriek as the Captain's shadow fell over him like a black cloud.
"Ginyu! W-What are you doing here?" the small man stammered. "I told you you're barred!"
Ginyu smiled like a lion and plonked his large hands on the small man's shoulders, turning him around. "Come, come, we're both gentlemen here and gentlemen do not squabble over petty matters. Gentlemen discuss their differences over a nice whiff of port," he said, guiding Krillen non-too-gently and sitting him down at a wobbly table, then took a seat opposite. "After all, we can't all run around like hooligans, damn it all! Some of us must be civilised. Imagine the world if all of us was knocking each other around, eh?" He bellowed with laughter; a sound like a horn blown to raise the dead.
"Not much different to how it is now, I 'xpect," Krillen grumbled sullenly. "What're you after this time, Ginyu?"
"Captain," Ginyu corrected politely, "if you please."
"Fine. What're you up to, Captain?" Krillen spat acidly. "'Cause whatever it is, I want no part of it."
He sighed dramatically. "Whatever did I do to earn such a bitter opinion, I wonder." Ginyu leaned back into his chair and tapped his nose conspiratorially. "I'm after information. Worry not, my small bald-headed chum. It's nothing that will get your neck in a noose."
Ginyu waved an airy hand. "Naturally, I'll make it worth your while."
"I'm not interested in money."
"Ah, women," he said sagely, as though recalling some rare species he had once glimpsed while sailing past a tropical island.
"Like you'd know any decent ones," Krillen snorted. "And besides, I'm married," he said, then added, "Happily."
It was Ginyu's turn to look indignant. "Preposterous. No such thing." He fixed a very serious stare on Krillen's small black eyes and lowered his booming voice so that the barmaid and the fiddle player who had been eavesdropping almost had to strain their ears to hear him. "Then… perhaps a deal."
Krillen narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What kind of a deal?"
"A contract. A gentlemen's agreement. I believe the common term is 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'," said Ginyu with an odd quirk of his lips. He may have been a pirate, but he liked to think of himself as a well-read, fine-bred gentleman of the sea and quite above such common language. It quite escaped his notice that he was a complete idiot. "There must be some kind of favour I can do for you."
Krillen's eyes suddenly flashed. Ginyu knew he had won and after a flickering moment, the small man relented. "My daughter was kidnapped by the Snake Queen," he told him, quietly. "Get her back and I'll help you."
"Ah-ah." Ginyu wagged his finger. "Help me and then I shall take pains to return your daughter to this fine, er, establishment."
"Come off it! How do I know I can trust you?" Krillen exclaimed. "You're a pirate!"
"How very astute. All right, I am a fair man and I can see we have reached an impasse of sorts. Therefore I am left with but one option." Ginyu leaned across the table, a dark and solemn expression on his face. "We shall take the Oath. Will that warrant your trust?" Krillen nodded firmly, his expression grave. "Good."
In one motion, they linked pinkie fingers across the table and chanted together:
Cross my heart,
Lest I sniff
A dead man's fart.'
"This had better be worth it," said Krillen, his cheeks tinged slightly pink, and then turned to the pretty young waitress at the bar. "Kida – bottle of port over here, please!" The girl nodded smartly and brought over a bottle and two grimy goblets. Once she was safely out of earshot, Krillen leaned across the table and said grudgingly, "Alright. What are you after?"
"That's what I said."
Krillen blinked. "Hold on, hold on. Someone's nicked your ship?"
"If you want to be vulgar about it, in a manner of speaking, yes. And I spent far too much time and effort procuring that ship from the Earl of Buu-"
"You mean nicking it," Krillen cut in.
"- to have some chap come along and claim it for his own, damn it all. Pass the port."
"But I saw your ship in the harbour just a half-hour ago," said Krillen, passing the port. "No one could've sailed off with it in that time, not even the King of Thieves!"
"Ah!" Ginyu shouted, grinning. "And here we come to my point. How might one go about contacting the King of Thieves? I was led to believe you were an acquaintance of his. You know. Fellow who lives in the Deadly Deserts. Long hair. No ball in his canon, if you get my meaning. Thinks a flying cat follows him round. Nice port, by the by. Good age."
"Yamcha? Well, yeah. I know him." Krillen shrugged. "He comes in here for a pint round eight."
Ginyu stroked his chin musingly. "That so…that so…"
"I can arrange a meeting with him then, but man…I dunno if Yamcha will even chance anything round Scrum this week."
The ridges above Ginyu's red eyes rose. "Oh? Why might that be?"
It was the barman's turn to look surprised. "Well isn't it obvious? The Princess's coronation takes place tomorrow. Where've you been? Icion can't be a kingdom without a flipping monarch. Everyone's raving about it, 'specially Raving Roshi – creepy old pervert keeps ranting on about what a great pair of-"
"That's quite enough, thank you," said Ginyu, covering Krillen's face with one large hand while drumming the fingers of his free hand on the table.
This was no good, no good at all. He was feeling increasingly more agitated. If the Princess's coronation was tomorrow, Frieza was bound to pull a stunt before or during the ceremony. If his hunch was right, and it never was wrong, and Frieza was behind the assassination of his father and brother, then an assassination attempt in broad daylight would be the most likely scenario for one very simple reason: Frieza would have an alibi. Naturally it was common knowledge that the Prince never did his own dirty work, but an alibi would still give him the power to bribe the press and soon everyone in Icion would believe Frieza was nothing but an innocent bystander and perhaps even the next poor victim in a line of royal assassinations. Ginyu could see it all as if it were happening before his very eyes. After all, he'd been around the world a couple of times and was no stranger to messy royal affairs. Still, the important question was where did this scenario leave he and his crew?
'Strung up like sardines, most likely,' he thought grimly and downed another mouthful of port.
Saku Ookami was widely recognised as the worst adventurer who ever travelled the Seven Kingdoms. Merely bad adventurers had perhaps one or two near-death experiences along their travels. She scorned such amateurs. In the past year alone she had been hired seventeen times to guard various high ranking officials – five of them had been maimed in various bloody and imaginatively gruesome ways under her watch, four had been inspired to take up piracy and the few who had survived working with her had turned to alcohol. She was now banned from six of the Seven Kingdoms, had caused several thousand doubloons worth of property damage, blew up a castle, worried a dragon and had a bounty put on her head for stealing candy from the Earl de Buu. Truly, there was no beginning to her talents.
But what Jeice didn't know wouldn't hurt him, she mused, tearing down a Wanted poster featuring a very unflattering mug shot of her, while her companion rattled off another monologue concerning how the Princess Bass's skin was like the "smooth frothy head of an untouched pint". Ignoring him, Saku reached into a pouch on her belt and pulled out a handful of tiny dark crystals that twinkled in the sunlight. Then, glancing surreptitiously around, she dropped them into an empty barrel on a street corner.
People always focused on her unconventional methods, she thought wryly, continuing to ignore Jeice's romantic monologues, which were no more poetic than a pile of steaming cack. Take Prince Trunks, for example. No faith in her at all! But when it came right down to it she got the job done. So she may have inspired a few starry-eyed royals to turn to piracy. In some places, like Scrum for instance, piracy was considered an aspiration. Property damage, well, sacrifices had to be made. The castle had been an eyesore too and frankly the Earl de Buu needed to lose weight. Nobody had died, not completely. And it was hardly her fault that some stupid dragon had underlying abandonment issues.
"But yeh know what ah really love about her?"
"No. Please. Enlighten me," she said dryly, scattering another handful of black crystals in a barrel.
"The way 'er hair blows in the wind like a-"
"If you say golden silk one more time, your brains will be blowing in the wind." She turned and pressed a finger squarely in his nose. "And you'll get worse coming to you if you spout that rubbish in her face. Do you want to sound like a twat?"
Jeice pouted. "I wouldn't give you the satisfaction." His eyes turned to the pouch on her belt. "Here, what've you been puttin' in all them barrels?"
"THEM barrels!" he pointed. "And the ones back down the street in all! You've been dumping that black stuff all about town."
"Don't know what you're on about," she replied, shrugging coolly, and walked across the street to a small ramen stall.
Jeice recognised the stall as the same one he had found Saku sitting at earlier. The vendor was a very small, wrinkled old woman. A pointed hat crowned her head of violet hair. Obviously she belonged to some Magic Guild, Jeice thought warily.
"Oi, Baba!" shouted Saku, raising her hand by way of greeting. "Did you do the weather reading yet? Remember, it's gotta be accurate."
The small woman, Baba, grinned darkly. "My readings are always one hundred percent accurate," she whispered sinisterly. "And they come with a free yogurt."
"Always a bargain." Saku laughed and plonked a small bag of gold in front of the old woman.
Jeice watched as the two women bent their heads together in hushed whispers, Saku nodding her head vigorously every few minutes. He huffed impatiently and tried to sneak a few noodles from the hot pot, only to have his hand slapped away. Finally, Saku stood up, looking all too pleased with herself. He frowned. Jeice knew he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer – in fact he was probably a spoon – but he had a six sense when it came to dodgy deals. He knew when someone was up to something. Knowing when someone was up to something was practically his middle name, though thankfully his mother hadn't been as cruel as all that.
"Cheers, Baba," said Saku, with a disconcerting grin. "That's all I needed to know."
The old woman looked at her warily. "Be careful of what you're getting into, Ookami," said Baba, grimly. "There's evil in the air. Murder afoot. And something very nasty in the streets…"
"Yeah, ah think ah trod on it earlier," muttered Jeice.
The old woman merely smiled at him. "You look like the sort of young man concerned with the brevity of life."
"More the means of bringin' it about," he replied, waving an airy hand, then turned beseechingly to Saku. "Look, can we go now?"
"Here's the thing," Saku began as they left Baba's ramen stall and entered Scrum's main street, a place where only tourists and those who robbed them shopped, "you've come here on some mission to seek the Princess's hand, right? Problem is other people seek it too. You have to figure out what you've got that they haven't."
Jeice snorted. "That's easy. Ah've got style."
"So have her suitors. And they don't have to rob it from other people," she pointed out.
"Not that kind of style. Ah've got style yeh can't buy in shops, like. An inner glow, me. That's what me old nan used to say." He beamed with his own self assurance and winked at a couple of passing girls, who giggled and blushed in a way that made Saku's skin crawl. Jeice tossed her a smug grin. "Let's face it, ah'm a lady killer. Full of charismatic charm and swingin' style, babes. You wouldn't know about that, mind, bein' a wolf."
Her right ear twitched irritably, but she forced a thin smile. "Guess not." It was no good arguing with someone whose reality was obscured by rose tinted glasses with lenses three inches thick. "Look, never mind all that. You're guarding the Princess, right? You've got an in that other suitors would kill for. If you're really god's gift to women then lay on …er… whatever it is you lay on."
"Ah can't!" he moaned. "There's somethin' wrong with her. It's like she's immune to my one-liners. Or maybe…" He sighed, frustrated. "Maybe it's me. It's like ah can't think straight when she's around. Like ah'm…doubtin' myself," said Jeice. "You think ah'm sick or somethin'?"
"Sick in the head, maybe."
They came to the bulk of the palace wall and ambled along a dusty street that ran along beside it. The backstreet saw little light or traffic and was therefore a prime location for rats of both the furry and criminal kind. Saku watched with interest as a few of the latter flicked their knives away and averted their gazes the moment they recognised the insignia on Jeice's leather breast plate. Apparently Captain Ginyu had a lot of sway even in Scrum. Saku had heard of him herself, of course. He had something of a legendary status amongst those who liked to dip a toe or occasionally a foot into the criminal world. She looked at Jeice askance and wondered if he even had a clue who he was working for. Jeice wouldn't last three days in Scrum without Ginyu's crest. The cocky ones always died young (and messily, with lots of flailing about).
She looked up the immense palace wall with a grim expression. "So when are you going to get me into this joint?"
"Tonight," Jeice replied, but with a suspicious frown. "'Ere, why'd you really want to talk to the Princess?"
Saku eyed him a moment, then said with a loose shrug, "I've got a message for her."
"From one of the few people in this city who isn't trying to cut he throat. But never mind that. Tell me what your plan of action for wooing the Princess is."
Jeice looked perplexed. "Ah dunno. Flowers and junk. Chicks dig that sort of stuff."
"Flowers, huh? Oh. How ordinary."
"Oi! You're the bleedin' one who's s'posed to have all the answers," Jeice whined. "Deal was you help me and ah help you. You better make pretty on your part of the bargain or-"
"Ok, ok. Stop whining, these ears aren't for decoration," she said, pointing to the furry points at either side of her head. "They're very sensitive and your complaining sounds like a pig attacked with a cheesegrater. Just give me a minute to think." Saku leaned against the palace wall, stroking her chin thoughtfully. The problem was she didn't know what women wanted in a guy. She wasn't sure what she wanted in a guy, never mind some Princess. After a moment, she clicked her fingers and exclaimed, "A sonnet!"
Jeice cocked an eyebrow. "A what-now?"
"You know: music, a song."
"Like rock music?" asked Jeice hopefully.
"No, something soppy that preys on a woman's vanity. Trust me, vanity is a woman's weakness," she proclaimed smugly, then added, "and yours, but one issue at a time. You sing her a song and she'll fall right into your arms. All princesses do. They're programmed to. It's like in their blood or something."
"Really? Wow. Cheers!"
Saku beamed and patted Jeice on the shoulder. "No problem, young apprentice. Now go forth and do what no man should ever do – sing about his feelings!"
"Aye-aye, babes!" Jeice saluted, and turned to race down towards the palace gates when Saku grabbed his collar and yanked him back painfully.
"Ah-ah," she wagged a finger in his face, "what are we forgetting?"
Jeice smiled very innocently. "A… goodbye kiss?"
Her face turned stony and thunderous.
"Alright! Alright! Ah'll get you into the palace," he relented. "Go t' the north wall at seven tonight. That's the weakest part of the palace wall. There's loads of trees yeh can climb down onto. Ah'll get you some royal guard gear or somethin'. Then you can walk 'round the palace no prob."
Saku quirked an eyebrow. "It doesn't sound like the place is well protected."
"Are you kiddin'?" Jeice laughed. "There's hardly a bleedin' guard around the place. Except when Frieza's around. He's practically swimmin' in them."
Then, with a short salute, Jeice turned and ran down the murky street. Saku frowned as she watched him go. There was murder afoot alright. She wondered if the Princess would survive long enough to hear Jeice's sonnet.
She sighed. "Probably best for her if she doesn't."
For a Princess, Bass showed little interest in balls, royal affairs and especially garden parties, much like the one she was attending now. She wandered around the carefully tended to garden, occasionally nodding her head at an ambassador or duchess. Despite being raised in royal circles, she had never been one for idle chitchat nor the idiosyncrasies of the obscenely rich and wealthy royals.
"Are you not enjoying yourself, my dear?" an amused voice asked, close to her ear.
Bass turned sharply, glowering with all the hatred she could muster in the face of Prince Frieza. His loyal lapdog, Zarbon, was never far from the Prince's company. Frieza smiled at her like a snake. Her fists clenched. She could not hand the kingdom over to a man like this whose idea of democracy was one man, one vote (the man in question naturally being Frieza).
"I do not blame you. We were expecting Prince Trunks from Vegetasei, but it appears he could not make it. A pity for you, I'm sure." The Prince smirked. "I hear he's quite a dish."
"How lovely to throw a garden party two days after your father's death," said Bass in a tight voice.
"Tsk, Princess. Our father," Frieza corrected, wagging a finger in her face. "After all, Kold adopted you. You are as much a part of this family as I am. And I hope you believe me when I say your presence here means so much more to me than an alliance with your home kingdom. Why, I must confess you are like a ray of sunshine during these harrowing times." He sniffed and held a hand out to Zarbon, who handed him a handkerchief. "Death is such a gloomy affair," he said, dabbing at his eye theatrically.
"I believe my bodyguards wish to speak with me, my lord. Excuse me," she said, turning around and walking away briskly. It was all she could do not to smack the Prince in the face. Who did he think he was fooling with that act?
She continued on through the gardens until the clinking of glasses and regal laughter of the party was a faint din behind her. Nearby, three members of the Ginyu Force were sitting in the cool shadow of an apple tree playing a card game, or attempting to anyway, but these attempts were hampered by Recoome who would shout, "GO FISH!" every few seconds then slam his face onto the stack of cards.
Bass did not feel at ease in their company. They kept looking at her, particularly the red one. Thankfully he didn't seem to be amongst the group stationed under the apple tree. She took a deep breath then marched firmly towards them.
"Do you call this guarding me?" she snapped tersely, standing over them like a black storm cloud.
"No. We call it Snap," replied Recoome, looking at her with childlike honesty.
"I hate this game," Guldo protested loudly. "Burter always wins."
"Not when you cheat, I don't," grumbled Burter.
"How dare you imply such a thing! I never bend rules!"
"Right," said Burter, rolling his eyes. "You only bend time." He turned towards Bass with an air of unconcern. "What can we do for you, Princess?"
Bass lifted her chin and sneered. "Don't give me that "Princess" rubbish. I came here to tell you to leave now. Prince Frieza takes me for an idiot, but I'm not blind and I'm not deaf. I know who and what your Captain Ginyu is and I know you're anything but bodyguards."
"Y-Yes we are!" Guldo stammered. "Recoome! Show her our qualifications."
"Recoome only pawn... in game of life…" the large man replied with a far-off expression.
Burter and Guldo sweated, and turned towards the Princess with expressions of guilt that would have had them dangling by their necks in a court of law.
The Princess tossed her blonde head and glowered, folding her arms across her chest. "Do you know what a rat is? I can sum it up in five very simple words: Fight. Steal. Eat. Run. Fleas. Prove to me you are something more than that and perhaps, perhaps I'll believe you won't cut my throat in the middle of the night."
The Ginyus exchanged a puzzled look.
Finally Burter said, "We like bowling, too."
"Well that went well," Guldo moaned, drumming his fingers on floor outside the Princess's quarters where they were stationed for the night. "If Frieza doesn't have us thrown in the pit, that Princess will have us skinned alive."
"She'll probably do it herself, too," said Burter. "She looks the type. Jeice, what are you writing over there?"
"Nothin'," the young pirate replied, promptly.
"Nothing? You've been writing that thing for hours," said Guldo irritably. "Show me it!"
Jeice ignored him. He got to his feet and strode purposefully across the hall to the Princess's door and chapped three times, clearing his throat. Behind him, the Ginyus watched curiously. The door opened and the Princess glared.
"What do you want now?"
"Just to talk to yeh're highness-ness." Jeice beamed convincingly.
"You're pirates. You're despicable," Bass retorted shortly. "I don't make it a habit of casually conversing with thieves and murderers."
"We're not murderers," said Jeice earnestly. "We're just, er, balancin' out the forces of the universe."
The door slammed shut in his face.
"Christ." He knocked on the door again. It opened a crack and the Princess peered through. Jeice cleared his throat and began to sing, "'Roses are red, violets are bloo, and yer tits look great in that dress.'"
A fist shot through the gap in the door and sent the pirate staggering back into the hall with a very bloody nose.
"Are you alright?" asked Guldo, whose voice held no trace of sympathy.
"Did you lose any teeth?" asked Recoome, hopefully.
Jeice simply grinned stupidly, clutching the sonnet to his chest with a faraway look. "Whoa, man, ah love that woman. She's got the rock 'n roll magic, mates!"
"Jeice, I don't think that was punch was thrown out of affection," said Burter.
The Ginyus shook their heads in unison. Jeice's bottom lip began to quiver.
"MEN!" hollered Captain Ginyu, striding down the hall towards them. "Your illustrious and fearless leader has returned to this putrid den of iniquity. Rejoice!" He paused for dramatic effect. A frown crossed his face like a black shadow when the four pirates merely stared blankly. "What's wrong with you? You appear confused. This is where you run towards me like giddy children."
"Aye, Captain!" the Ginyus roared, scrambling towards him, all except Jeice who was staring forlornly at Bass's door.
Ginyu frowned. "Jeice, why are you sobbing like a small sissy girl? Don't answer that. I don't care. Get over here this instant. I have grave news about our glorious ship. And by ours I mean mine."
"What's wrong, Captain?" said Burter.
The Captain lowered his booming voice to a more gentle holler. "It appears our Prince Frieza is working all the angles here. Our ship is overrun with imperial armed forces. The Princess is on death row alright."
Burter frowned. "We're scapegoats, aren't we? That's why they've got our, er, your ship."
Captain Ginyu nodded tensely.
"S-Scapegoats? You mean we're going to be framed for her murder? B-But why? How?!" Guldo wailed. "They've been so nice to us!"
"An escape is our only option," said Ginyu, coolly ignoring Guldo's sobbing. He turned around, arms folded behind his back like a royal dignitary. "Never fear, my companions, for even as I speak your fearless Captain is formulating a brilliant plan. Indeed, my mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapour of invention."
"Ditto!" Recoome grinned.
Ginyu paused in his step and turned sharply towards him with a glare that would have frozen most people to ice. "'Ditto'?" he repeated. "'Ditto', you provincial putz?"
"Cap'n!" Jeice interrupted before the last of Recoome's brain cells were scattered across the royal floors. "We can't just leave the Princess t' die can we?"
Ginyu blinked. "Of course we can, you bumptious tit! We're pirates, not heroes. If you want to be a hero, sign up to the Heroes Guild. There is no room for frivolous acts of bravery on my ship. Pirates are mice, not lions!"
"Er, mice, Captain?" Burter queried.
Ginyu blushed and cleared his throat, slamming his fist into his open palm stubbornly. "YES. Lionly mice!"
"But Captain," Guldo whimpered, "how do we escape if they have our ship?"
"That," began Ginyu, with an eerie smile, "is where the King of Thieves comes in."
Frieza watched city below his balcony, its thousands of lights twinkling like a field of fireflies. It was a pathetic city, really. The only thing of any value it produced was an invaluable source of bounty hunters.
"Can I get you anything, Prince Frieza?" said Zarbon.
"What do you think of this city, Zarbon?" Frieza asked, taking a delicate sip from the goblet of wine in his hand. "Do you think it a fine city?"
"Er, yes my Lord. Very fine."
"Mm. Forgive me for saying so, but you truly are the most sycophantic twit, Zarbon." Frieza's gaze darkened. "This city is a joke. This whole world is a joke. I will rectify that soon. Very soon."
"Yes, my Lord." Zarbon bowed deep. "If you need me no longer, I shall retire for the night."
"Please do," said Frieza, waving him off casually.
He heard the click of the door as Zarbon left his quarters. A few minutes passed. Then suddenly, there was a flicker in the air, detectable only by the very trained eye. Frieza smiled darkly.
"Hello, Mr Sauza." He sipped his wine. "Lovely evening, isn't it?"
The shadow in the corner said nothing.
"Never been one for much chit-chat, have you? I like that. It makes the job run much smoother. And I must admit I do enjoy the sound of my own voice." Frieza chuckled, then motioned towards a chair. "Please, rest your sphincter."
Sauza did not move. For a bounty hunter he wasn't particularly overwhelming. In fact, he suited the image of a hero more than a cold-blooded killer. He was of average height and build, with a shock of blonde hair and blue skin. His clothes were loose fitting, the outfit of your average mage. He was remarkable purely in his unremarkability, but Frieza knew you had to be careful of the ones who looked for all intents and purposes normal. Pirates and bounty hunters who purchased magical armour or enchanted swords and wore the teeth of their victims on strings around their necks were a bit like pearls: a piece of shit gets trapped in an oyster and a pearl grows around it, but ultimately it's still shit on the inside.
Sauza was the real deal.
Some bounty hunters were renowned by their name, but he was different. Oh, people knew him alright. But those who are very, very renowned aren't mentioned by name, but by simple phrases like, 'Oh…him…' or merely by the raising of eyebrows. Sauza was more often mentioned by a shudder than anything else. It wasn't so much the number of people who had passed on with Sauza's gracious assistance, but the infamous clients he had taken on. He had killed more royals than any Bounty Hunter to date. But Sauza's efficiency was not why Frieza hired him. No, the man had a certain quality about him which Frieza found particularly interesting. His face was young and stoical; completely humourless, but it was his eyes that held Frieza's interest for he had never before seen eyes with such focused, dispassionate pinprick pupils. They seemed to stare at, through and behind you all at once; an effect that even had Zarbon feel happier keeping a nice solid object, like a desk or a musket, firmly between them. Frieza, for all that he was a great controller and taker-awayer of life, was also an admirer of character and Sauza certainly had character, though most people preferred not to get too close to whatever that was. There were far worse things than death and in his presence you tended to get the feeling those things were lurking just behind his eyes.
"You know," Frieza began, clasping his hands behind his back as his eyes ranged over the city sprawling beneath him, "the true capital of Icion is Ice City itself. A beautiful city, dominated by our people's fine culture, yet vastly ignored due to my father's love for this…charming port. Of course, once I claim the throne I'll set things right. Unfortunately, there is one small thing standing between me and that throne: the rightful owner." His small red eyes grew cold as he looked at the bounty hunter. "Tomorrow. Noon. Do you understand?"
Sauza gave a quick nod of his head and turned to leave.
"Oh, and Mr Sauza?" Frieza added, his tone once more light and friendly. "Make it messy. The entire city will be watching after all."
Prince Trunks and his Saiyan bodyguard, Caithion, were sitting in a tavern drinking, because really, you had to be drunk to stay in a place like this. Trunks grimaced as another violent bar brawl broke out; this one started by two old biddies arguing over whose turn it was to pay the bill. Blood splashed onto their table, followed by a set of dentures.
"Is there anything in this city that makes life worth living?" the young Prince grunted in disgust.
His companion seemed to mull this over for a long while, sipping on a glass filled with toxic looking green stuff, then said at length, "Cats."
"The cats are nice."
Trunks snorted. "Cats bring the plague."
"That's what I like about them."
Saku Ookami was clawing her way through the fighting masses on the bar floor towards them with all the grace and stealth of an inebriated blind hippo on stilts.
"Ookami," Trunks greeted with a nod when she staggered against their table. "Remind me to have you killed for incompetence when this is all over."
"Duly noted," she said. "But before you cut my throat, Prince Charming, you might want to have a chat with the Princess tonight. I arranged a little date for you."
Caithion raised an eyebrow at her; an expression that might have been surprise etching across his pale face if indeed the spidery Saiyan looked anything other than disdainful. He tapped his cigarette on the edge of the table and leaned into his seat, coolly. "I told you she wasn't completely incompetent," he told Trunks, who did not look impressed.
"What time do we have to head there for?" Trunks asked her.
Saku smiled guiltily. "In about five minutes."
The two Saiyans exchanged a look, then glowered at her.
"Whaat?" she shrugged. "I fancied a drink!"
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