a story or collection of stories about an admirable person.
A/N: This story takes place after the El Baile de la Muerte arc. If you haven't read it or if your memory is just a tad fuzzy, I recommend at least skimming over Chapters 57-69 to avoid some confusion.
Disclaimer: Black Lagoon and its characters © Rei Hiroe
I: THE PROPOSAL
Only the most select breed of warrior is destined for legend. While their origins may vary, the final result of their exploits always ends in a grand story. Be it villain or hero, there is always a tale to be told for those who have proven themselves worthy of their status. When these grand epics are shared, they can inspire one to go on their own journey, and a new legend is created in turn. However, legends and the origins thereof are not always blithe. Legends can be dark; they can be sordid. If one does not have a strong will, the deeper they delve into the story, the closer they come to ending the legend in disaster.
- 0 - 0 - 0 -
Shenhua was lying in her bed, her face bare of the usual makeup while she wore a cream colored sleeveless top and shorts in place of her flowing qipao and white silk jacket.
She lifted her blanket to look down at her bandaged legs, a souvenir from that hunting fiasco with the maid. The Taiwanese woman growled and swore it would be a long time before she took another job with the Lagoon's gunwoman again. She always lost big whenever she was around that gun loving bitch. She put the blanket back over her legs and sighed, resting against the pillows she had propped up against her head board. She supposed herself to be lucky that she survived getting shot by Hotel Moscow, and in hindsight, it had certainly been entertaining to see Twinkie throw a tantrum after getting shot in the arm. Shenhua smiled at the thought of Revy being called "One Hand" for a while.
The smile quickly went away. Still, Shenhua had been shot in the legs. All the time that it was taking to heal was money being lost. She was freelance hunter. She killed for a living, but there was absolutely no way she could be paid for her services if she was lying in bed all day. Yet she could still barely walk; the smallest step would send jolts of pain surging through her system before she collapsed in a heap on the floor.
She groaned miserably and twisted the sheets in her fists, turning her head and glancing at the window framed by red curtains. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. What a shame she couldn't enjoy it.
She sighed again. Worst of all, possibly worse than getting shot in the legs, that psychotic maid had bitten one of her khukri into oblivion. Her pair of blades was no longer a pair and Shenhua's eyes glistened in pain at the thought. She had both of them for so long. Those custom blades were her companions ever since she was deemed worthy of wielding the weapon of her choice, and now one of them was destroyed...
"Shenhua, we're back," announced Rotton "the Wizard" as he walked into the room, his black trench coat flowing with each stride. Sawyer "the Cleaner" was by his side, dressed in her favored gothic style of striped purple sleeves with a black skirt and stockings. Shenhua's frown momentarily disappeared as she looked back at her friends approaching her bedside.
"A quick clean up... for the morning... There's nothing else to do... today," Sawyer said, a ghostly augmented tone coming from the choker-mounted voice machine on her scarred neck. "How are... your legs?" The gothic woman lifted up the sheets to examine the bandages.
"Bandage not need to be changed yet," Shenhua assured her. "How Rotton do with helping clean up?"
"I didn't make him... do anything gross... I let him... carry the bags... That's all."
Rotton made a show of placing his index finger to the bridge of his sunglasses, saying, "Though the heavy lifting is not my forte, I was glad to be of assistance. I must say, Sawyer's new saw works wel—"
The gothic dressed woman sharply nudged Rotton's side with her elbow, cutting him off. He looked down at her with a questioning glance before he looked back at Shenhua, now realizing why Sawyer interrupted him.
Shenhua looked down at her lap, reminded that she wasn't the only one who lost a weapon during that fight. The maid had broken the chain of Sawyer's weapon and warped—no, twisted the guide bar, leaving Sawyer to look for a new chainsaw, or rather, a new unit she could take apart to replace the broken bits of her preferred model.
If possible, Shenhua's frown grew. Sawyer had managed to make an easy fix herself, but the repairs Shenhua's khukri needed were unfortunately much more... complicated.
"Ah..." In a rare turn of events, Rotton was at a loss for words. "Shenhua, I'm... I apologize. I know how much you cherish—"
Suddenly, Shenhua shook her head.
"Do not be like that, crazy boy. You not really know how much it mean," Shenhua said with a wry smile. Before Rotton could say something in response, Shenhua continued, "You not really know, but it my fault for not sharing. Sawyer, Rotton, sit down. I have story." She patted both sides of the bed and her friends took the hint, carefully sitting in their respective spots.
"What's... the story about?" Sawyer asked.
"Just about girl who go off to play with swords," Shenhua said.
"So it's about you?" Rotton asked.
"You like hunter stories, yes? Then I know you enjoy mine," Shenhua hummed. "You say I cherish blade, and I do. I cherish blade very much, but you not know how much."
Rotton noticed that most of the words were directed toward him as Sawyer listened. Being a "blade" wielder herself, Sawyer already had an understanding with Shenhua about how important their respective weapons were to them. That and, unbeknownst to Rotton, Shenhua had already shared several hunting tales with the young woman in private.
Rotton, however, favored guns, and this story would have helped him a great deal in understanding Shenhua's passion for her khukri.
"It was long time ago," Shenhua started. "When I was a girl, I was sent to island to train with best knife fighters in world."
"Where was this island?" Rotton asked.
"Mindanao, in the Philippines. Village I stay in very deep in forest, far away from the towns. I train very hard with the fighters, day and night, no breaks at all until my teacher say so. My teacher..." Shenhua paused. "My teacher the best knife fighter on island. Liuyedao, named after willow leaf saber because of how good he is at killing with slashing weapon."
"Was he a freelance hunter like you?"
"Mmm, long time ago," Shenhua confirmed. "Training very hard, weather make it feel so hot I sometime think I in Hell... but I train, keep training, no matter how tired. Then, after years of training, my teacher take me to see bladesmith. My teacher tell me that I ready for my own weapon, my companions."
"Your khukris," Rotton specified. Shenhua nodded slowly in affirmation.
"Huo Niu, the bladesmith, he make them from special steel. When done, my teacher train me more, train me harder so I bond with companions, always know what to do on battlefield. Then..."
"Then what?" Rotton inquired, soaking in the tale of Shenhua's journey as a mercenary.
"... I go into underworld, gain reputation. Hard years of training pay off, Mr. Chang hear of me after I do many job for Tiandihui and I come to Roanapur." The words were almost rushed.
Sawyer knitted her eyebrows. There was more to the story than that.
"What I saying," Shenhua said, holding her hand to Rotton's mouth so he couldn't interrupt her, "I was just girl when I start to train with swords. I give up many year of my life to come here, and companions be with me along way since they forged. They special to me. Losing one to that bitch maid..." She lowered her hand and head.
"I see," Rotton whispered. "Yet... Shenhua?"
"Yes, crazy boy?"
"You said you were sent to the island when you were a girl. Who was it that sent you to live among the knife fighters and be trained by this Liuyedao?"
In an instant, the temperature in the room dropped and Shenhua's eyes hardened. She quickly looked away and coldly said, "It not important. All you need know is that I train long time with khukri before I come to Roanapur. Now, how about you and Sawyer make lunch in kitchen? You look hungry. Go eat."
"Rotton... Shenhua is right... We skipped breakfast... We should eat now..." The cleaner grabbed Rotton's wrist with a freakishly strong grip and pulled him off of the bed, intent on dragging him into the kitchen. As they exited the room, Sawyer gave a quick glance in Shenhua's direction, seeing a harsh expression on the Taiwanese's woman's face before she shut the door.
- 0 - 0 - 0 -
"What kind of tea... should we make for Shenhua?" Sawyer asked, looking through the shelves.
"She seemed rather upset," Rotton said, leaning against the counter.
"She's grumpy... because she hasn't hunted... in a while. I don't... blame her," Sawyer dismissed, deciding on a ginseng tea and pulling out the ingredients. "Doesn't help... that her legs still hurt..."
"You know what I'm talking about, Sawyer."
"Rotton... stop picking at the scab," Sawyer sighed. "She shared... what she wanted to share... Leave it be."
A moment of silence, then, "Sawyer, does Shenhua still have her broken khukri?"
"I think she placed the pieces... in a wooden box... The small one... with satin lining... It's with the blade... that isn't broken... Why?"
"We can track down the man who forged her blades and ask him to melt the pieces together for her. He can forge a new blade."
Sawyer bopped her head with her palm.
"Well, golly... Why didn't she... think of that?" She poked Rotton in the chest. "It's not... that easy, Rotton... If it were... she wouldn't be acting... the way she is right now... That man... is probably long gone..."
"Then we can take the pieces to another bladesmith in the city."
"Rotton... how many bladesmiths in Roanapur... do you know of?"
"Exactly," Sawyer said, turning away from him to grab a kettle and fill it with water, "and even if... we could find one... in Roanapur... you know that Shenhua is very... sensitive... about her blades... She won't even trust... the pieces... in the hands of... a stranger."
Sawyer placed the kettle on the stove and turned it on.
Rotton looked down in contemplation, before saying, "We are only assuming the man who forged her weapons is gone. There is a chance he is still there. What if I went to that island, Mindanao, and tracked him down? I can take the pieces along for the trip and surprise Shenhua with the finished blade."
"And then... we can ride dolphins on the way back... and swim with the mermaids," Sawyer said, the monotone of her Ultravoice intensifying her sarcasm. The silver haired merc took no offense and kept trying to convince her.
"Sawyer, if there is still a chance that Shenhua's bladesmith is out there, I believe it is worth trying to find him."
"Rotton, first off... We don't know... what her bladesmith... looks like... Aside from the knife fighters and the teacher she trained with... only Shenhua knows," Sawyer stuck out her index finger, then the middle finger. "Second... we would have to take her along... for the trip... and we can't do that... because of the holes in her legs..."
"Yes, but Sawyer—"
"Third..." Sawyer's ring finger joined the first two. "I can't afford... to come along to babysit you... Whether she... admits it or not... Shenhua needs a helping hand... while she heals... and even if that wasn't the case... I own a cleaning business, Rotton... I can't just leave the city... on a whim... I have to be available."
"I'm not asking you to come with me," Rotton said.
Sawyer put her hand down and she gave him a quizzical look.
"And I don't need to be babysat," he defended.
"Hold on... You're telling me... you want to go to a forest... on an island... with the best knife fighters in the world... to find Shenhua's bladesmith... all by yourself?"
"I know how important your services are to the city, and I know Shenhua still needs time to heal," Rotton said smoothly. "It would be too much to ask of both of you to come under these circumstances. But I can't stand here idly if I know there's something I can do. You stay here with Shenhua and let me find the person who can forge a new blade for her."
"Rotton... that's..." Sawyer shook her head. "That's... stupid. You're not going."
The Wizard slumped at the Cleaner's reaction.
"What makes you say that?"
"Rotton, you think... this is one of those... action movies you love so much?" Sawyer asked, grabbing his trenchcoat by the collar and pulling him down to her eye level. "It's not... You think you're just going... to waltz into a forest of killers... and come out unscathed?"
"I don't intend to do battle with the knife fighters."
"That doesn't mean... they aren't looking... for a fight," Sawyer reasoned, letting go of his collar.
"Nonsense. Shenhua trained with these fighters, correct?" he asked, straightening out his trench coat's collar. "If I tell them it's for her, they can assist me in finding the bladesmith."
"If your... decapitated head can speak," Sawyer warned. "Words don't work well... against the 'attack first, ask questions later' philosophy."
"You're only assuming they live by that philosophy. What if they don't?"
"What if they do?"
"...Then I suppose I have no choice but to accept their invitation to combat," Rotton said, placing his right index finger to the center of his sunglasses and extending his left hand, spreading out the fingers in a dramatic gesture.
Sawyer rolled her eyes. Oh, geez...
"When I prove myself in battle, perhaps then they shall be persuaded to give me the information I seek. Or..." He relaxed his pose.
"Or... what?" Sawyer asked.
"I shall tell Shenhua of my plans and see if she can contact the fighters beforehand. If it's not possible, then I shall ask her for any advice on how to negotiate with her past sparring partners if they desire to fight." He started to walk toward the exit of the kitchen, but Sawyer quickly blocked him off, leaning against the frame and stretching her arm across so he couldn't pass.
"If she could call them... to ask where the bladesmith is... she'd have done it by now," Sawyer said. "Rotton... if those fighters attack... your bulletproof vest will not be enough."
The kettle on the stove began to screech as Sawyer's chilling blue eyes peered into the dark lenses of Rotton's sunglasses.
"Sawyer, why are you so vehement about all this?"
"Aside... from you dying?" Sawyer hissed. "Shenhua told me... the story she told you... in deeper detail... Rotton, if you go... you are going to see... more than you bargained for."
"How so? What is it Shenhua told you that she didn't feel comfortable sharing with me?" Rotton asked.
"Shenhua's life isn't as glamorous... as those big wuxia movies..." She tightened her grip on the exit's frame. "If you dig too deep... you are going to find... things... you do not want to find."
"Sawyer, is this concern over my views of the world?" Rotton asked, lifting up a hand to rest on her right shoulder. "I came to Roanapur of my own volition. Surely, if I reside in this city on my own accord, I have a good idea of what darkness the underworld entails."
"So you think..." Sawyer uttered, shaking her head in dismay. "Why... do this now? Why can't you wait... until Shenhua is healed... and then we can all... go together?"
"Both you and Shenhua have already made your sacrifices." Rotton said mysteriously. Sawyer lifted an eyebrow in inquiry.
"The fight with the maid," Rotton began, lowering his head and striking yet another dramatic pose. "I'm aware of how highly you and Shenhua value your weapons. There's a closeness, a bond that ties them to you. As Shenhua said, they are companions. For anything to happen to your weapons would be the equivalent of losing a vital part of yourselves. When your chainsaw was broken in that fight, so was your spirit. You were shaking and clung to Shenhua. Shenhua, too, felt a sense of loss, though she tried not to show it at the time."
"Not surprising... Shenhua has probably stared... death in the face... more times than you and me..." Sawyer noted.
"As we can see," Rotton continued, "Shenhua still feels some loss from having one of her khukri broken in that fight. You managed to repair the damages to your chainsaw, but as we know quite well by now, it's not that simple with Shenhua's weapon."
"Hold on... come back," Sawyer said. "You said Shenhua and I... made sacrifices... but what does that have to do... with your trip to the island?"
"You both proved yourselves in that fight, yet my guns remained unused through the battle. I did nothing. I want to prove my worth by helping a fellow compatriot."
"You did enough for us... when you took a kick to the crotch... and showed us the dent... made in the cup," Sawyer reminded him, trying to keep a straight face at the memory. "The maid could have finished the job... and killed Shenhua and me... if you didn't leap in front of us... and distract her... See? You did... something useful."
"I want to be more than a shield," Rotton urged.
Sawyer looked down, but she still didn't move her arm from its firm placement across the kitchen foyer. She lifted her head up to say something in return, but a shrill cry cut her off.
"Aiya!" Shenhua screamed from her bed. "You both deaf? Want me to crawl there? Turn off stove! I hearing kettle whistle for long time! All water probably steam by now! Gàn!"
Sawyer looked over her shoulder and down the hall.
"Sorry, Shenhua..." she apologized. She and Rotton had been so engrossed in their conversation that they somehow tuned out the relentless, irritating noise of the screeching kettle. Unbelievable.
Sawyer loosened her grip on the kitchen's foyer, confident Rotton wasn't going to make a mad dash down the hall without completing their discussion, and she walked over to stove, turning it off. The kettle stopped screaming and Sawyer took out a tea pot and cup. She poured the boiling hot water into the pot, mixing it with the ginseng.
"... So you really want to... go through with this?" Sawyer asked, pouring the tea into a cup.
"I know you are concerned, but there is no need to worry. There's a boat that leaves for the Philippines each week. If I work quickly, I can pack what I need in order to prepare myself and catch the boat by tomorrow morning. Also, before I leave, I shall be asking Shenhua for more information so I know just where to go when I'm in Mindanao. Have faith in my plans."
Sawyer carefully held the tea offering with a look of contemplation. She gazed at Rotton's face, and the man seemed eager for her approval.
The gothic woman sighed.
"If you die... I get your Playstation."
The Wizard smiled, knowing that was Sawyer's special way of saying "I approve."
"I knew you would understand," Rotton said, cradling Sawyer's face in both of his hands before he left to speak with Shenhua. Sawyer slowly made her way to the bedroom, shaking her head.
She hoped Shenhua could talk some sense into him.
- 0 - 0 - 0 -
"What happen in kitchen?" Shenhua asked, seeing Rotton come through the door and Sawyer shortly follow after, holding a tray with an ornate tea cup and a matching pot.
"Ah, the kettle," Rotton remembered. "Sawyer and I were discussing something important."
Sawyer set the tray down on the nightstand beside the bed and gingerly handed a cup to Shenhua.
"Oh? Must be very important if you not mind such terrible noise. Thank you, Sawyer," the Taiwanese woman said, accepting the cup. "What you talk about?" Shenhua brought the cup to her lips.
Sawyer looked over nonchalantly at Rotton, already knowing what he was going to say.
"It was about you, actually," Rotton started.
Shenhua stopped mid-sip and raised an eyebrow.
"Really now?" Shenhua asked suspiciously, holding the cup away several centimeters from her lips.
Rotton took a deep breath and said, "Yes. I was thinking of the story you told us earlier, about your training in Mindanao and the man who forged your knives."
"And?" Shenhua pressed, taking another sip.
"I was wondering, have you contacted the bladesmith at all or know his whereabouts?"
"Aiya," Shenhua waved her left hand back and forth dismissively, "haven't seen Huo Niu since he give me knives. He very old when I first see him, already one foot in grave. He probably dead now."
Rotton slumped at that assumption, but then Shenhua said, "Then again, Huo Niu not ordinary person. Very strange. Could live to be the age of immortal for all I know." She shrugged and took another sip.
"So he could still be alive?" Rotton asked.
"Maybe. Any more questions, crazy boy?"
"Yes, actually," Rotton confirmed. "I wanted to know, exactly where in Mindanao are the knife fighters you trained with? Have you contacted any of them, or your teacher, in the past?"
"Contact? Like call on phone? Oh, no. There be no phones where they are. The fighters all very traditional—that nice-talk for 'cheap'." Shenhua took yet another sip.
"As for where they are," Shenhua informed, "I put this way: If you go deep in forest and you not hear sound for long time, you right outside village. It also mean you going to die. Too much quiet mean fighter on guard duty looking right at you."
Rotton soaked in the tip, and Shenhua acknowledged him clinically.
"So you and Sawyer talk about this? Why you want ask me these questions?"
Rotton hastily gave her an answer.
"Sawyer and I agreed that she would stay here and help you heal while I go to Mindanao to track down the bladesmith who made your weapons. When I find him, I will ask him to melt down the pieces of your broken khukri and forge you a new blade."
Shenhua closed her eyes and kept the cup at her lips. Sawyer and Rotton braced themselves during the long silence, ready for an outburst in protest.
It was then that the Taiwanese woman attempted to stifle a giggle, before she threw her head back and laughed.
"Ahahahaha! You say you go to training ground all by self? HAHAHAHA!" The woman could barely keep a grip on her cup, she was laughing so hard.
Sawyer blinked and pursed her lips. Shenhua wasn't taking Rotton's statement seriously.
"Ah... yes," Rotton nodded. "Only if both of you agree with the plan. I don't want you or Sawyer to feel any resentment towards me."
"Oh, yes, Rotton, I fine with it!" Shenhua giggled, looking at Sawyer. "Long as Sawyer vote 'yes' with me, you go. Right, Sawyer?"
"Uh... yeah..." Sawyer said, momentarily grabbing the tea pot and peering inside of it, wondering if there was something in the ginseng that was making Shenhua so giddy.
"So it's agreed," Rotton said under his breath. "I'll go."
"Yes, crazy boy. Have fun," Shenhua snickered. "Call me when you get to island! Oooh, and when you see Master Tora, tell him Shenhua still think katana is giant butter knife! Heeheeheehee!"
Despite knowing that Shenhua thought his promise was just a joke, he decided it would be best for him to take her words literally. He stood up and excused himself from the room, already going over various scenarios in his mind and getting prepared for the journey ahead of him.
Sawyer closed her eyes and sighed while Shenhua was still in hysterics. So much for sense.
- 0 - 0 - 0 -
Later that night, Rotton crept through the dark apartment, being careful as not to wake Shenhua while he carried the small wooden box that contained both of the Taiwanese freelancer's precious khukris: the broken blade to be re-forged and its unscathed partner to serve as a model for the bladesmith, if need be. He slung a large duffelbag over his right shoulder and did as best as he could to coolly tip-toe to the door in the living room. He cautiously reached out to the knob and his fingers brushed the cold metal.
The Wizard nearly flinched and sharply looked over his shoulder, seeing a ghostly apparition rise from the couch.
It was Sawyer in her cleaning scrubs, sans mask and goggles.
"Sawyer, I thought you left for work earlier," Rotton whispered. Sawyer made her way over to him, holding up a cell phone.
"Had to give you this... just in case..." She handed over the cell phone and looked up at his face, able to make out his features in the dark. Though she would never admit it verbally, she also wanted to see the man off before he left.
"Thank you," Rotton said gently. As he began to turn back toward the door, he stopped when a thought crossed his mind.
"Sawyer, Shenhua went into deeper detail with you about her past training, correct?"
"Yes..." Sawyer said, unsure of where he was going with this.
"When I had asked her who sent her to train with the fighters, she said it wasn't important. Did she tell you who it was?"
"No, actually... she didn't," Sawyer said honestly. "She just... had a mean look... and shut down."
"I see," Rotton said. "Maybe I'll find the answer when I go to Mindanao."
"Rotton... you're already testing your limits... with this trip. Lady Luck... can be a fickle woman..." The Wizard understood her implications.
"I know," Rotton said, reaching out to brush his thumb across her cheek. "I shall be careful." He opened the door and stepped outside before looking over his shoulder one last time, stylishly pressing his finger to his shades.
"Good bye, for now."
- 0 - 0 - 0 -
The rays of the morning sun leaked into the room and struck Shenhua's face. The woman slowly opened her dark blue eyes, moaning lightly as she rose up and stretched. She observed that both sides on her bed were empty.
Strange, Shenhua thought. She knew Sawyer had to work last night, but it wasn't like Rotton to wake up this early. She immediately saw a folded piece of paper on the nightstand and picked it up, reading what the note entailed.
Sawyer, meanwhile, had just come back from work, coming in through the living room door.
What a long night, the Cleaner thought. Work at the Yellow Flag always meant good pay, but it was always so tedious to clean up all those bodies, as well as the fluids they expelled. A popping sound was heard as Sawyer stretched her back and neck. She was looking forward to a rest in bed after a night of hard work.
Sawyer cringed at the sound and she could have sworn she saw a crack appear on her work goggles. Either a cat had gotten stuck in a car engine, or Shenhua just found the note Rotton left for her.
"HE WAS SERIOUS? AND HE TAKE MY KNIVES? SAWYER, YOU IN HERE? DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS AND NOT TELL ME?"
Sawyer quietly tip-toed backwards out of the apartment and shut the door.
On second thought, the bed could wait.
A/N: Tsk, tsk, Sawyer. Shame on you for not sharing.
Cell phones in the mid 90's – Obviously not like the cell phones we have now, but Black Lagoon has some anachronisms, so I would take this detail with a grain of salt.
Sigh. The previous Shenhua origin fanfic, Myth, was only supposed to be a stand alone story, but then some loose ends came back to bite me in the butt and I found myself wanting to make a companion for it.
Hence, Legend was born.
I know the beginning and the general set up for this story was slow, but don't worry. The wuxia vibes and Myth-esque aura will pick up in Chapter Two.
Stay tuned for the next chapter. It involves more knives!