Author's note: I sincerely appreciate Silverwolf407 and PcKtmouse for their kind reviews. Haha, yes the floozies are originally from my TP fanart I posted to deviantart more than a year ago *give cookies to Silverwolf407*.
PcKtmouse kindly helped me bring up this fic to a presentable standard with her thorough beta reading. If it wasn't for her generous support, this story could have never made it here today. Also, I gained inspiration for this fic from the PM exchange with her when she mentioned her trip to Japan.
I have thrown a bunch of nonfictional-based ideas into the story, but please note that I significantly bent them just for the sake of story development.
And if you have a time to spare, it would be nice if you kindly check out chapter 3 of my "10 hugs" series before reading this. It is unnecessary if you already know what the "Paopu Fruit" is, though.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything and no money was made from this.
Title: A single soul
Theme: 04. Weapons
Beta by: PcKtmouse
Captain of the RLS Regent, Lieutenant Commander James Pleiades Hawkins was on his mission to deliver a certain diplomatic correspondence to the government of Republic of the Lagoon Nebula on behalf of his organization, the Interstellar Naval Aerospace Cadet Corps. His ship was not even halfway through the course to its destination yet, but occasional run-ins with pirates made their stock of ammunition and other supplies already run short. They had progressed a few days in advance of the original schedule, so the young Captain decided to spare a day of excursion for restocking at the nearby planet Xenuse.
The spaceport was the most densely populated city in the bay area of Xenuse. As the Regent was put to the dock, Jim remembered that the RLS Legacy had docked at the same wharf during his memorable Treasure Planet adventure.
It was true they ran low on the supplies, but in fact the situation was not dire to such an extent they need to call in the nearest port immediately. Even so, he opted to drop by this place specifically due to a certain object he recently came across.
After making his way through the busy main street, he caught a glimpse of dimly-lit red paper lanterns in the corner of his eye. He was heading out to the Far Eastern ethnic enclave located in a secluded part of the harbor city. The district was established centered on a five-story pagoda. A number of stalls surrounding the tower offered various foreign specialties. The air was thick with a peculiar scent—a mixture of oriental spices, incense sticks, medicines and several others the 27-year old spacer could not really point out. Quite a few paper lanterns decorated the winding passages around the area. Their soft glows emphasized the mystical mood about the place.
The shop was at the dead end of a particularly narrow passage. Miscellaneous gadgets of all sizes were piled up nonchalantly in front of the entrance, which almost blocked the sliding door leading to the inside. If he had not known better, most probably he would have missed this isolated spot.
The place had not changed even the slightest since his first time here. He could swear the bamboo low table with the "Sale" tag stuck on its surface had been there nearby the entrance when he accompanied the semi-mechanical scallywag here more than a decade ago.
He grabbed the wooden frame of paper door entrance and slowly slid it to look into the shop. Inside was pretty cluttered, just the way he remembered. Several withy baskets containing a bunch of hand scrolls were here and there, and so were the stacks of bamboo-made crates. He also noticed some intricate musical instruments of the Orient leaning against the wall.
A counter table was in the dark corner of the shop, on the opposite of a wooden cupboard containing numerous vials. Each of them was labeled in the neat Far Eastern character. A small hunchbacked man was perching on a high chair in front of the counter, paging through an old issue of Galactic Geographic magazine. Because of his abundant white beard and almost comically huge bottle-thick glasses, Jim could not really tell what species he was. In fact could only assume the shop owner should be a male because Silver had once referred to him as "he". When Jim stepped inside the traditional Far East architecture the old man peered above his spectacles. The deeply wrinkled eyes stared at the younger man and Jim flinched under the enigmatic gaze.
"Excuse me, Lao shi*. I was wondering if you would help me out with this…"
A little hesitantly, Jim ventured further into the little Far East and came face-to-face with the mysterious man. Indeed, his appearance accentuated by mass of long beard almost touching the floor was identical to the one in the young officer's faraway memory.
Jim produced a medium-sized rectangular box with its width a little wider than his shoulders, wrapped by a lavender-tinted fine textile. He carefully placed it on the slightly dust-covered counter and untied the knot of the cloth. A secretive glint appeared in the smaller man's eyes as a lacquered container decorated with traditional Far Eastern curving appeared.
"My ship had a run-in with pirates a few days ago. We confiscated it from the gang…"
Jim lifted cover of the box in a refined manner, something he had acquired in the sophisticated environment of his academic and professional career. Lying on the burgundy cushioning inside the box was a Far Eastern style sword about 25 inches in length, featuring delicate curvature. It was too long to be considered a dagger but too short to be a long sword. Its sheath and hilt were engraved with an elaborate pattern of cherry blossoms.
"Fine Kodachi, indeed."
The shop owner took the sword and unsheathed it in one liquid motion. The sword, Kodachi as the cryptic man called it, bore a single cutting edge facing down. Its metal ground had a brilliant blade pattern with a white misty formation running parallel to it. The well-honed sword reflected a soft light of a paper lantern as the merchant upheld it, admiring the craftsmanship.
"It is a masterpiece by legendary swordsmith Kunimine of Bizen, a country in an ancient civilization of Far East."
The shopkeeper whispered in a husky voice. Jim cleared his throat and offered hesitantly.
"All right, so it is a real thing... You know, our confiscation from pirates quite often includes one or two items of cultural value, just like this time. However, this sword seemed to be the Far Eastern heritage our people at the Interstellar Navy are not familiar with, and we happened to pass by Xenus so I decided to come here to consult the specialist…"
The up-and-coming naval star fidgeted as he mumbled a lengthy, unsolicited explanation. His voice faded out soon because he knew it was a feeble excuse. Verifying the value of confiscation was never his responsibility. He had to admit today's visit was rather his personal affair than an administrative pursuit. It was for the old time's sake.
After defeating the ruffians in a heated on-deck brawl, he found the Far Eastern artifact on the criminal ship. His once-dissipated longing for his admiration was replenished at once. One of his cherished memories during their Legacy voyage, their excursion in Xenuse's spaceport rushed back to his mind. The Far Eastern enclave, red paper lanterns, the scent of joss sticks and exotic market place—everything flew into his thought so vividly that a shiver ran through his back.
"In fact, the swordsmith Kunimine forged this Kodachi to serve as a catalyst to your weapon Kunai which you acquired here some time ago, young Hawkins."
Jim's eyes grew wide at the mention of his name.
"D-Do you remember me?"
"Of course, I have been expecting you to bring this to me. And do you carry your Kunai knife with you today, young Hawkins?"
"Well, yes—I do, I have mine of the pair…"
He wondered how the other man could expect him as his visit was actually a spontaneous decision. Nevertheless he reached into his inner pocket of the pristine uniform and picked out a metal tool, which resembled something akin to a short knife. It had a leaf-shaped blade and a handle with a ring on the pommel. He put the knife-like object next to the open container on the counter. A flowery pattern curved around the rim of circular pommel glimmered under the ambiguous light from the exotic lanterns.
While scrubbing pot after pot in the midnight galley, the cabin boy exhaled a dramatic sigh. Silver brought his cyborg hand—which had been turned into the kitchen knife at the moment—to an abrupt halt as he threw a sideway glance to Jim.
"W'at's t'e matter, Jimbo?"
The teen rolled his eyes at the tuber-peeling cook without stopping his cleaning of the greasy kitchen utensils.
"Don't play dumb, Silver. I know you know what's up,"
His brunette bangs swayed in a sleek motion as Jim heaved another sigh and lowered his gaze. The younger man's sulky tone made Silver turn fully with amusement evident in his half-mechanical features.
"Hmm…is t'at so?"
"All I'm left with are Mr. Mop and Mrs. Bucket when even Onus has his own little cutlass? C'mon! How unfair is that!"
The old salt let out a good-natured laugh at his cabin boy's sourness which he found to be quite adorable. Naturally, it only worsened said boy's mood and earned a begrudging glare.
"Why, Jimbo, I 'eard yer pretty good wit' Mr. Mop."
Earlier in the day, the Legacy encountered a flock of galactic seagulls which for some reason decided to attack the galleon. Some 10 crewmembers who were unfortunate enough to be on the deck at that particular time fought back the vicious animals with full might. In the deck-swabbing cabin boy's case, he swatted them with his cleaning device that was found to make a surprisingly effective bludgeon.
Onus frantically swung his cutlass at a bird which was tenaciously harassing him for no apparent reason. Sadly, his effort was futile. Jim took pity on the numerous-eyed alien and rescued the poor thing with his makeshift weapon.
What truly unnerved Jim was not the ungrateful watchman who threw a tantrum when he was mortified by the fact that an unarmed, naïve cabin boy of all people saved him. The witnesses of the scene annoyed him to no end by making a laughingstock of the unlikely pair. Jim's expression was now further darkened to a near-venom.
"They'll never drop the mop thing until I get a decent weapon!"
"Pay no mind ta t'ose bunch o' twits, my lad. I know yer perfec'ly capable."
A faint blush betrayed the boy's exhilaration despite his frustration. In his desperate effort to cover his embarrassment, Jim passionately scrubbed the wok in his hand which was already polished spotlessly.
"Y-yeah…but still I'd really hate them to make fun of how defenseless I am…"
Something about the word defenseless caught Silver's attention. Jim was oblivious to how the sea dog was suddenly deep in thought, as he was all caught up with his own bashfulness. The boy came to his senses when his taskmaster resumed tuber-peeling with a click of the mechanical hand.
Jim actually recognized the name as well as location of the planet, from his extensive knowledge in the astronomy he had secretly nurtured over years. Xenuse was supposed to be near from where they were. However, he could not figure out why his shipmate called the planet's name out of blue.
"Our next stop. We'll look fer yer weapon t'ere."
The cabin boy beamed after staring at the cook incredulously for a good full minute. He hardly contained his excitement when he pulled the other man into a bear-hug. A rare bounciness from the usually unconcerned teenager caught the cook off-guard. He might have scraped the boy's narrow waist with his knife-mode gear if he had not been more careful. A half peeled tuber tumbled on the floor when Jim gave a quick peck on the spacer's cheek.
"Thank you Silver, you're the best!"
The space-faring cook only blew through his nose at his protégé's enthusiasm. Jim missed a small blush creeping into Silver's blunt features, because the boy marched out of the galley as soon as he released the hold and put down the washing cloth he abused by polishing pots after pots for the past few hours. Silver huffed once again when the lad was nowhere in sight, feeling his face reddened.
In a matter of few days after The Mop Incident, the Legacy docked into a spaceport by the bay on planet Xenuse. The one-legged shellback escorted his cabin boy through the town and eventually arrived at the Far Eastern enclave, which was reputed to be by far the oldest and the largest in the Western galaxies. Jim had visited the Far Eastern town in Crescentia before, but it was nothing compared to the enormous embodiment of the oriental culture absorbing him now. Silver headed straight to the shop in a dark corner at the far end of the district, with the awestruck teen in tow.
The heavy scent of the Far Eastern incense overwhelmed Jim at the moment he set foot in the retail. He took in a 360 degrees view through a sheer mist of strange fragrance and found the place to be crammed with a myriad of foreign-looking merchandises. Next to the impressed teen, the cyborg took off his hat and waved it toward someone in the back—Jim assumed to be the owner of this shop.
"Aye, Lao shi. How's yer business runnin'?"
Silver's lighthearted greeting was returned by not so much of a nod from the mass of white beard that barely resembled a small built alien. He perched on a high chair behind the shop counter with his short legs lazily swinging in the air.
"The business is going quite pleasantly, Master John Silver. Sure it has been long since our last meeting. May I ask what brings you here today?"
Judging from the shopkeeper's bizarre appearance, Jim had mentally readied himself for some heavily accented Far Eastern dialect. His expectations proved wrong by the perfect standard language in a fluent tone.
"Me lad 'ere Jim Hawkins needs a weapon ta fig't like a real spacefarin' man. Any suggestions, Lao shi?"
Silver gave his cabin boy an encouraging nudge, which made the boy stumble forward to the mysterious creature. Being within a mere few inches from the shopkeeper's bespectacled face, Jim flinched at the feeling as if the unfathomable gaze penetrated his pounding heart. His mentor chuckled at the boy's obvious nervousness.
The shop owner fixed his eyes on Jim's azure ones which occasionally sparkled by catching the lights from crimson lanterns carelessly upheld here and there in the mini-chaos of a shop. The cerulean-eyed boy held his breath without realizing. When he became almost pale from lack of oxygen, the shop master gave him a small nod in a somewhat approving way. The hunchbacked figure hopped down from the chair and retreated to what seemed like a storage room through the back door adorning a jade beads curtain. Jim was left baffled only to hear clattering sounds and occasional thuds from where the shopkeeper was seemingly rummaging through. His impatience was relieved by Silver's casual squeeze on his shoulder with a calloused organic hand.
"Looks like ye passed 'is test, lad."
"Huh? What test?"
The younger Legacy crewmember frowned in confusion and his taskmaster just returned a knowing expression.
"T'at fella wouldn't care ta entertain unless 'e sees somethin' in ya."
Soon thereafter the rummaging noise ceased and the shop owner emerged. The white bearded alien looked even snowier now, due to a whole lot of dust covering his entire body. He hoisted a wooden box – an accomplishment of his exploration – up on the counter and beat the dust off his battered Far Eastern outfit. The spacers coughed uncontrollably as they were engulfed In a series of stirred up white puffs..
Not minding the dust-tormented duo in the slightest, the shop owner opened the box. A bundle of lavender-colored fabric appeared, which surprisingly fine quality was contrasting to the rough exterior. The small alien's hand unwound the bundle and a pair of what looked like in Jim's eyes the Far Eastern-style short knife appeared. The metal tool was more or less 12 inches in size had a leaf-shaped blade and there was a ring on the pommel of its handle.
Jim vaguely remembered he had seen something similar in one of the storybooks he used to enjoy when he was a kid. It was one of the oriental folktales which became famous in the Western galaxies, featuring a covert agent specializing in unorthodox arts of war. Little Jim was amazed by the way they traveled in disguise to other territories to investigate the enemy's situation. His favorite part of the story was when the agent entered enemy castles to set them on fire, arriving in secret.
"This here is your Kunai, young Hawkins. Let it serve as your means of combat."
The shopkeeper produced the dagger-like metal tool to the astonished boy. Kunai, as the oracular Easterner called it, was beautiful. It was so thoroughly sharpened that Jim could see his stunned face reflected on its silky black surface. His hesitant hands received the weapon and he admired its exquisiteness in silent awe.
What he found especially fascinating was the ring-shaped pommel that featured the intricate flowery pattern. Although the curving bore clear resemblance to graceful cherry blossoms, the overall decoration somehow generated an impression rather masculine than feminine.
While he was tenderly trailing the pommel with his fingertips, he suddenly gasped and his face visibly fell. The merchant raised his brow in a questioning manner.
"Is there anything wrong with your weapon, young Hawkins?"
Jim let out a deep sigh with his shoulders sunken, still clutching the Kunai knife protectively to his chest.
"Well, nothing, the knife's really nice but…"
He stammered and heaved a profound sigh out of anxiety. The boy's dismay was infectious to his crewmate as he stood behind the boy with a concerned look on his semi-mechanical face.
"There is no way I can afford something like this."
Even to a Westerner like Jim whose familiarity with the oriental culture was limited, the Kunai knife looked surely expensive. He mentally counted how much money he had in his wallet, which he usually carried in his cargo pants pocket. He cursed himself for wasting not-so-meager amount of cash in his previous shore leave on a certain fruit that was said to bind the destinies of a couple together. Soon enough he realized even if it was not for the rip-off fruit he never had that much of money to start with. However his reluctance was dispelled in a short while.
"Your concern is unnecessary, young Hawkins. I do not intend to impose a monetary charge on you for what truthfully belongs to you."
The proprietor's word simultaneously exhilarated and perplexed the cabin boy. He looked back and forth from the shopkeeper to his mentor in bewilderment, which was the gesture returned by Silver's warm smile.
"Wow, that's—that's so generous of you but I can't possibly accept this for free! A beautiful piece like this must cost a fortune actually, and I'd really hate not to pay a doubloon…"
Jim shook his head restlessly in a mixture of excitement and confusion, but the proprietor calmed down the disconcerted one with a simple shush.
"That being said, young Hawkins, I do intend to award you this heritage item on one condition."
The next moment, the shopkeeper walked over to the hulking frame of the seadog while holding the remaining piece of Kunai from the paired treasure. When the Easterner handed it out to the longtime spacer he did not so much as cast a glance at it upon receiving. Something told Jim Silver already knew what his end of the bargain would be. Blowing a huff through a thick wall of his beard, the Easterner looked up at the cyborg's poker face. Jim decided it was just his imagination that he saw the slightest hint of anguish in Silver's good eye.
"Although I see a rightful owner of Kunai in young Hawkins, I do notice he is yet to demonstrate his true worth. Until the time comes, Master John Silver, you are not to tell him the real nature of his possession. That, and to keep the counterpart of young Hawkins' weapon, together consist the end of the bargain I would impose upon you."
Jim had never before heard of a trade as strange as this one. He turned to his crewmate just in time to see him agree to the deal with a casual shrug. The realization of his newfound armament swelled the cabin boy's heart with pride…
"Does Master John Silver carry the counterpart of your Kunai today, young Hawkins?"
The question puzzled the young Captain. He had no idea about the cyborg's whereabouts let alone his retaining of said artifact.
A memory of the one-year leave he had taken prior to his graduation from the Etherium's top school came back to his mind. Over the course of his academy days he made more than several attempts to search for his friend by making use of opportunities such as seasonal long-term breaks. The year-long vacation was his last effort to reunite with his secret crush, but to no avail as he came back defeated and empty-handed.
After his graduation with flying colors he climbed the ladder of power in the prestigious organization at an unprecedented speed. People said his indistinguishable enthusiasm for astronomy based his successful career pursuit, but the former cabin boy knew it was not the case. It was his desperate attempt to get over his first—and the last, so far—true love that turned him into a workaholic. While at the same time, he could not deny he had a hidden agenda to accidentally run into a space-faring cyborg on his missions as so-called "the galaxy police". However his chances on ceasing his simmering passion or having a run-in with the one-legged pirate seemed rather dim.
It had been long since his nostalgic longing for the Legacy voyage became his second nature. It was almost comedic that he still could not get over the mere few-month journey after so many rounds of four seasons had passed.
"I'm sorry Lao shi, I don't know if he still has it. I've not seen him more than a decade now…"
Somehow the shopkeeper gave the 27-year-old an approving nod.
"Very well then, I see Master John Silver kept up his end of the bargain."
Not only his baffling words but also his intense gaze took Jim aback. He recalled that he had been under the same eyes in his last visit here. The ageless merchant eventually heaved a small sigh in what Jim perceived as a subtly admiring tone. As if on a cue, the shopkeeper turned back his attention to the oriental artifacts.
"The time has come to bring to light a true nature of the Kunai. Master Hawkins, if you please."
The snowy-bearded Easterner wielded the Kodachi sword and solemnly swung the blade down to within several inches of the Kunai knife. Before Jim could object to the potential harm on his long-cherished possession, Kunai emanated a flash so bright that he could not keep his eyes open. He tentatively reintroduced his cerulean orbs to the world as the blinding light evanesced in the backside of his eyelids. To his relief, he found his Kunai had no blemish and was in the same well-kept condition as when he placed it on the counter minutes ago. Everything about his dagger-like weapon remained the same, saving for one change.
There was a ray of light emitting from the tip of Kunai's leaf-shaped blade.
Just like how the sphere map of Treasure Planet functioned, his weapon beamed an emerald-tinted fluorescent laser which led to the shop's front gate. The navy youth was left speechless and started to feel butterflies in his stomach. Is this—no, this can't be—
"The true value of this Kunai here demonstrates friendship, Master Hawkins. And the Kodachi serves as a catalyst to bring out Kunai's potential."
The shopkeeper started in his unique enigmatic tone, but Jim barely paid attention to him as his eyes were firmly fixed on the luminescent tool. Unaffected from the young Captain's distracted state, he sheathed the Kodachi sword with a click and proceeded with his speech.
"The Far East civilization once formed an alliance with the Western galactic empire during the swordsmith Kunimine's active time. Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies, said an ancient Western philosopher. The philosophy enlightened the Far Eastern society though the cultural exchange, and hence the pair of Kunai knives based on Kunimine's inspiration."
The butterflies in Jim's stomach turned into a full-out flip in his diaphragm. Barely containing his inner turbulence, Jim moistened his lips nervously and opened his mouth to ask the other man a question. His words came out in a little shaky voice.
"So it means this green laser leads to the counterpart of my Kunai knife?"
"Yes indeed, Master Hawkins. The ray of light shows its way to reunite with its friend, its counterpart of a single soul."
The former Legacy cabin boy felt his face flush out of overwhelming joy, happiness and excitement. He felt his grin reaching ear-to-ear, so he was quite surprised when droplets of hot, wet tears trickled down his burning cheeks. The mysterious Easterner kept going matter-of-factly.
"This happens only when two people who shares a genuine friendship possesses each one of the paired Kunai. So, naturally I presume Master John Silver must be still carrying it today."
Jim wondered if Silver really knew this when the two visited here many years ago. Although the answer was quite obvious to him now, he was determined to hear it directly from his counterpart of a single soul. Maybe that ridiculously expensive fruit paid off, after all. He gazed at the sharp pointed beautiful Kunai in his blurry vision, which was indicating the course Jim was about to chart.
(*) Lao Shi is a Chinese honorific which originally means teacher. The usage to address someone a teacher has evolved to a polite reference to an educated person rather than an indication of the person actually being a teacher. (Reference: Chinese honorifics. (2011, July 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:53, August 24, 2011)
Short sword signed Kunimune. In e-Museum, National Treasures & Important Cultural Propeties of National Museums, Japan. Retrieved 22:30, August 24, 2011.
Kunai. (2011, August 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:30, August 24, 2011.
Kodachi. (2011, May 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:30, August 24, 2011.
Ninja. (2011, July 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:30, August 24, 2011.
Aristotle [384—322 BCE]. (2005, October 21). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource. Retrieved 10:40, August 25, 2011.
Anglo-Japanese Alliance. (2011, July 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:47, August 25, 2011