* I'd like to thank Ho-Ho-Noa for supporting me in this endeavor! You're amazing, my friend. Anyway, this is the first of ten to twenty (I'm not quite sure how many yet) oneshots regarding the origin of species…er, Zoro. Origin of Zoro. Yeah. I've had several different thoughts on the matter, because we actually don't know where Zoro really comes from (and why his hair is so phenomenally green). The One Piece fandom has come up with some amazingly ridiculous ideas, which I applaud! But here's a couple different takes I came up with on the eight or nine mystery years of Zoro's life before he joined the dojo and met Kuina. Again, some of these will be more or less plausible while others are probably so insane that I'll be committed after uploading them (oh noez! Not again!). Some of the ideas also came from the talented mind of Ho-Ho-Noa, so I'll be sure to give credit when credit is due. Anyway, this first chapter is basically from the point of view of Mihawk (surprise, surprise), and God does he have a hard voice to write. Please, bear with me. I know it probably sounds way out of character, but it just sort of came out this way. Oh well, I suppose we can't have everything (head-desk).
The Original Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, Eichiro Oda does, bless his heart.
Origin 1: Undesired (1)
In my time training Roronoa Zoro, I have learned some very interesting facts about my would-be protégée. Some facts are simple: his hair color is naturally green, he drinks tea only, never coffee, and because of his years at Isshin Dojo, he automatically assumes Seiza position upon sitting, without even thinking about it (2). But, over time, I was also able to discern many complex characteristics about my student. Roronoa has a deep, almost unreal connection with all of his swords to the point that the spirits of his katana would do anything for him. Anything. Roronoa also has incredibly vivid dreams. He has never slept a night without them. Sometimes the dreams are simple recollections of the past, but other times, they are dark and disturbing nightmares of hellish places, dead and decaying nakama, and shambling monstrosities. The worst I'd ever pieced together from Roronoa's sleep-talk was his own captain transforming into one of these creatures of hell, killing his entire crew, and then having to be put down like a dog by Roronoa's own hands. Still, he was very good at hiding these things. His nakama never knew. In fact, it had seemed to me that no one, not any of his nakama, not even Mugiwara himself, knew of Roronoa's past before he was christened "Pirate Hunter Zoro."
Curiosity got the better of me once on a trip to the Marine Head Quarters for a meeting, one that I surely would have missed if not for the quality entertainment (a three-way catfight between Kong, Doflamingo, and Akainu). After an exceptionally amusing brawl, I left the meeting and went straight to the World Government's Central Records. I easily terrified an employee into letting me see normally classified records on individuals, specifically, the file on Roronoa. I noticed a disturbing fact as I paged through it: there was absolutely no record of him ever existing before he reached the age of fifteen. No birth certificate, no proof of citizenship, no mention of parentage, no hospital records, nothing. It was as if Roronoa simply appeared out of thin air. This was nearly unheard of especially considering how much dirt the government tended to dig up on known pirates. But somehow, the usual methods of investigation had failed in this case. The first entry in the file was for when my student turned in his first bounty when he was fifteen. The record stated that he first used the alias "Jack" and no other information was given, but was denied monetary compensation until he gave his full name, Roronoa Zoro. From that point on, the file continued normally.
Now my curiosity was insatiable. Just who was Roronoa? Where had he come from, and why was he a nonentity before the age of fifteen?
It was then that I discovered something very useful in regards to answering these plaguing questions. It started with a particularly brutal training session (well, brutal for my young pupil). Roronoa's initial encounter with Kuma had caused extreme internal damage that simply refused to heal and occasionally slowed him down in battle. A sudden pain had caused him to flinch, which allowed for my sword to penetrate far deeper into his chest than I'd originally intended. Before nightfall, I had a feverish and wounded nineteen-year-old to deal with.
Roronoa had lain panting and sweating on the guest bed (now his bed). The ghost princess had patched him up, but there's only so much you can do for a hardheaded fool with a pierced lung. Still, I knew for a fact that he'd be fine. Roronoa, like me, can heal from most fatal injuries with a couple of stitches and some bed-rest. He and I are alike in more ways than I ever cared to share.
It was late, yet I found myself wanting to watch Roronoa sleep for a while longer. I'd decided long ago to trust my instincts, no matter how idiotic or strange they might seem, so when I suddenly had the urge to run a hand through Roronoa's hair, I did it without much hesitation. He awoke, mumbled something, and stared at me with such a blank, dazed expression that I was almost positive he'd forgotten who I was. But, me being me, I just gazed back at him and asked how he was.
Roronoa lied there and stared at nothing for a long time. He started to pant and gasp for air, but his expression never changed. It was slightly disconcerting. Finally, he turned to me and with a vulnerable expression that I'd never thought possible for him to make, he wheezed out, "M-mihawk…I don't…f-feel so good…"
I did in fact pinch myself at this moment. Since when did Roronoa Zoro admit any kind of weakness? Especially to me. I'm the man he intends to kill to take my title. It was just ridiculous. My first thought was that perhaps the fever had simply burned the inhibitions right out of him.
Then, I felt my student weakly grab my hand and nuzzle his face against it, eyes closing in bliss and mumbling something about it being warm.
Yes, my theory seemed like a distinct possibility.
It was then that another thought occurred to me. If Roronoa was no longer thinking straight, perhaps he'd be more willing to talk about himself. In other words, more willing to answer the questions I've been burning to ask him since Kuma sent him to my castle. Now, I may not be a man of science, but it was definitely time for an experiment. I called his name to get his attention and asked, "How did Kuma inflict all those wounds on you?" It was a question that, in his right mind, Roronoa would not have touched with a fifty foot pole, but in this state, all it took was for me to stroke his hair (as I did before) to have my student recanting a half-asleep, yet incredibly detailed, account of taking all of his captain's suffering. When he finished, Roronoa's breathing was worsening, so I decided that enough was enough, at least for one night, and put him back to sleep.
From then on, whenever Roronoa was injured enough, I continued my "experiments." It was true; in this state, Roronoa was incredibly susceptible to any sort of demand or suggestion. I could have him barking like a dog if I wanted to, but only if certain conditions were met. First of all, the injuries themselves were not enough. Roronoa also had to have a high fever. He had to be half-asleep or extremely tired, and most importantly, he had to be completely relaxed, which surprisingly enough entailed some level of physical affection on my part. It could be as simple as holding his hand. When those three conditions were met, Roronoa would do or say almost anything I asked.
It was a bit like hypnotism. Though he would answer virtually any question, there were some lines I couldn't cross. I discovered this when I once asked for his captain's weakness in battle (it's not as though I'd actually exploit it; I was just curious to see if Roronoa would answer me). Immediately, despite his injuries, he pushed me away and ran as fast as he could. He was halfway through the forest by the time I caught up to him. I practically had to tackle him, assuring that he didn't have to answer before Roronoa had been willing to return to bed. Needless to say, my idiot pupil was more than just confused when he awoke to a more severe wound than he had remembered.
Still, even though it did have its flaws, I used this method to find out anything and everything about my student to satisfy my growing curiosity (yes, curiosity did kill the cat, but I'd just like to see it try to kill me). I started out slow out of respect for Roronoa's privacy. I asked easy questions: "How did you meet Mugiwara?" "What was your first sensei like?" and "Why did you choose to study swordsmanship?" That last question yielded a particularly interesting answer.
That night, Roronoa's fever had been more than debilitating. When I asked the question, he actually started crying and babbled out nonsense. It was getting us nowhere, and before long, I had ended up on the bed with Roronoa's head pillowed in my lap. For reasons that I didn't understand at the time, my presence calmed him. I decided to try one more time. "Why did you start swordsmanship, Roronoa?"
I was rather surprised when Roronoa looked up at me and smiled dreamily. "Because of him," he said before promptly fainting. I decided to let him have his much-needed rest despite my burning desire to know who "he" was. I let sleeping dogs (or swordsmen in this case) lie, and the next morning, much to my amusement, Roronoa had awoke confused and horrified with his head in my lap.
Still, as the months passed, Roronoa's number of injuries dwindled with his growth in strength. Though I never told him, I was never more proud than when my student sunk his first misguided pirate ship in one swipe. He was able to parry the same moves that had devastated him when he first began training. He wielded his three katana with more ease and grace than ever before, and now, when I look at Roronoa, I see the closest thing to a son I'll ever have.
And at the time, I yearned to learn more. To find out about those fifteen mystery years. I decided to step up my game.
The next injury I inflicted on Roronoa would come to be the only thing in my life that I ever regret. I'd been so stupid. Of course he couldn't have dodged my attack completely; he hadn't been ready to go up against one of my best techniques. And as I watched Roronoa cradle his mutilated eye in his hand, I felt nothing but the deepest shame for the first time in my adult life. My only comfort was that if I hadn't managed to pull back at the last second, my sword would have completely bore through his skull.
I had knelt down beside him. "Let me see it, Roronoa." But I had practically had to wrench his hands from his face. Blood poured everywhere. It was hard to make anything out through all the gore. I wiped it away and examined the wound. It would scar; that much I was sure of. I tried prying the eyelids apart, and Roronoa screamed. He hadn't so much as flinched when I gave him that scar across his chest. I couldn't imagine how much pain he must have been in to have him respond like that. Still, I had to inspect the wound. I told him to keep still and tried again. The whites of his eye were turning red with blood from the sliced veins. His pupil had turned a sickly yellow while his iris was cloudy, both also bloody. A large slash ran through the middle.
And as Roronoa let out a shaky breath, biting his lip in an attempt not to scream, I knew that he would never open that eye again.
I blinded him.
I brought Roronoa up to the castle, patched him up, and fought my incredible urge to throw myself out the window.
He was unable to get out of bed for days. After about a week, he was more or less back to normal, but I refused to let him train until the bandages were removed in another week or two. Aside from that, life with Roronoa and the ghost girl was business as usual.
Then one day, I learned everything. Everything about those fifteen years, everything about my student. And it all started with one unusual breakfast.
Normally, Roronoa was the only person on my island who would cook regularly. The ghost princess had never touched a stove in her entire life, and I could cook if I wanted to; I just didn't want to. Nevertheless, I knew something was off when Roronoa didn't wake up that morning. Perona had come to me, complaining that she had tried and tried to wake him, but he just wouldn't respond. I figured that she was overreacting as usual, but I went to see for myself.
I went to Roronoa's room, only to find him asleep, in a cold sweat, and oddly pale. Still, I shrugged it off. It was an arduous (not to mention frustrating) task to wake my young student. He could barely keep his eyes open, but I eventually got him out of bed and into the kitchen.
I should have seen the warning signs. I should've realized that Roronoa is never that pale, that his teeth were chattering, that his moves were far more sluggish than usual.
But I didn't. I didn't notice until he was facedown and bleeding on the kitchen floor.
He had been groggily chopping vegetables for an omelet, sweating and pale, quieter than usual, when his body just gave out on him. Before I had even known what happened, Roronoa collapsed to the ground, managing to slash himself with the knife he was using. He fell with a thud, the bloody knife clattering to the floor beside him. It took me a moment to shake myself out of my surprise and get over to him. The cut on his arm was not particularly deep but long, leaving quite a bit of blood in its wake.
I knelt down beside him, calling his name, and his good eye opened. It looked right through me. "Zoro." Calling him by his first name seemed to get his attention. I asked, "Is it a wound or are you ill?" knowing that it could be either one at this point.
It took him a moment to process the question before he mumbled, "E-e-eye…" Roronoa fainted without another word. I practically ripped the bandages from his eye, ignoring the ghost princess's indignant cries of "Be more gentle!" I grimaced, feeling sick. The cut and area around the eye was a light purplish red, black in the center, and oozing out pus at a substantial rate. It almost looked like a flesh-eating virus had gone at it. The deep contrast with his skin made it look as if it was sucking the very life out of him. It must have been causing Roronoa considerable pain for a long time. If I didn't know he could handle it, the very thought would have made my stomach churn.
I turned to Perona, telling her simply, "Antibiotics—in the medicine cabinet," before I picked Roronoa up and took him back to his room. It was only as I laid him down on the bed that I realized that this was the sickest I'd ever seen him. I used a handkerchief as a makeshift tourniquet for his injured arm, and tucked him in, deciding it would be far too cruel to question him in this state. I was about to go find out what was taking that ghost girl so long when Roronoa's shaky hand gripped my sleeve. I simply raised an eyebrow.
"Are…aren't y-you…g-gonna ask me…stuff?" he mumbled.
I had to grin at that. "Would you like me to?" I asked. At this, Roronoa actually blushed, making his face impossibly redder. I really had to wonder just how "with it" he was during these times. "I'm going to get your medicine," I replied simply. "I will question you after that." He nodded, his eyes glazed over with sickness.
I left to search for Perona, finding her surrounded by different pill bottles, muttering something about, "Stupid swordsman removing labels." I shook my head at her, finding the correct bottle with ease, as well as painkillers and some bandages.
Once I returned to the room, I found Roronoa half-asleep and curled up under the covers. I have to admit; it was an endearing sight. In many ways, this supposed "Demon Swordsman" was more of a housecat. My thought was only further proven with Roronoa nuzzled into my hand with a contented sigh as I attempted to wake him. Once again, it took far more effort than I would've liked to actually wake him. I gave him the medicine and wrapped his arm and eye.
Without another word, I climbed into bed beside Roronoa, only to have him curl up in my lap like the overgrown cat he was. Once I settled myself against the headboard, I began stroking his hair and asked, "What was your life like before the dojo?" Roronoa stiffened in my arms before shaking his head. I frowned, continuing, "Come now, Roronoa, didn't you want me to ask you questions?" For a few moments, he said nothing.
"W-will…will you leave if I don't answer?" There was a certain hesitation and almost fear in his voice that I'd never heard before.
As if I'd leave him after that. "No," I responded simply. It was a long time before anything broke the silence. I threaded my hand through Roronoa's hair. He seemed to be sleeping fitfully. His fever was rising despite the medicine.
"It always seemed dark," Roronoa whispered suddenly. "The orphanage…I don't remember there ever being a sunny day…but they didn't let me outside much." His words were slurred, but I heard everything clearly. "It was the worst place in the world. I never knew love…and I thought it was my fault…I thought there was something wrong with me…that I was worthless." I didn't show any of the shock or concern I was feeling.
Instead, I asked, "What did they do?" Roronoa shook his head, seeming unwilling to continue. Still, he forced himself to keep talking. He's strong, that one.
"I guess it all started with my mother…they never told me who left me there, but…somehow, I always knew…it was her. It was a rundown village, dying really. It wasn't unusual for parents to abandon their kids, but…" He sighed sadly. "I was just a newborn. She left me on the steps of that horrible place with a note that just said 'Undesired'." My hand stopped as I contemplated just how horrible the idea was. To leave a child with such a burden. Roronoa hadn't even begun to live. I shifted so that his head could lie comfortably on my chest. He seemed to appreciate it.
"Matron found me. I…hated her. She was the worst woman in the world. A heavy drinker and a witch, and I was something of the orphanage's scapegoat…" He laughed completely humorlessly. "It was probably 'cause of the hair that they singled me out…it always did get me into trouble." I clasped my hand around his shoulder, hoping to offer him some semblance of comfort. He didn't seem to notice. "When there wasn't enough to eat, I didn't get anything. If I asked why the other kids did, she'd just say, 'Well it's just your fault for being hungry, isn't it?' She blamed me for everything. It was always, 'Why d'you think we're all stuck in this hellhole, Undesired? It's because of fucking brats like you!' She'd beat me a lot too…"
I interrupted him out of absolute shock. "She called you 'Undesired'?" I asked in disbelief, Roronoa just nodded.
"Most kids were given a name if they were left with a note. She just went with what was on mine…It was my name. It was all I had; plus, I had no idea what it meant. The…the other kids took after the Matron. They took out their miseries on me. It was…the darkest time I'd ever lived through. I didn't have a friend in the world. I had no reason to live. If I'd been old enough to understand…I probably would've killed myself." My grip on him tightened substantially after that comment. Again, Roronoa didn't seem to notice.
"One day, I found out what my name meant…one of the older kids told me out of spite. I cried and ran to the Matron, asking why she named me what she did. She basically exploded at me, yelling and beating me. And then, she showed me the note I was left with. She screamed that I was worthless and not even my own parents wanted me.
"I was so lost and horrified. I ran away with the note, hid away in some alley, and cried. That night, pirates came. They attacked the village. The orphanage burnt down. It was the only good thing that ever came out of my life. I hated that place so much, and now it's nothing but ashes. But I was alone with nothing but the clothes on my back and that note. I was only five. There was nothing I could do for myself."
Somehow, Roronoa ended up being cradled in my arms. In truth, I'd never let anyone get this close to me in a long time. Still, I couldn't help myself. I'd seen a lot of shit in my day, but never had I heard of such a young child being so horribly mistreated. I was conflicted. It seemed to cause Roronoa such pain to tell his story, but he also seemed to want to get this off his chest. "Then what happened?" Surprisingly, Roronoa smiled. It was soft and dazed as if he was in a dream.
Then he whispered, "He rescued me."
Undesired had never been so happy. He didn't have to go back. Never again. No more Matron, no more mean kids, no more orphanage. He wandered through the city streets, wondering where to go next.
Then, it hit him.
Who the hell would want a "scrawny, no-good brat" like him? His hand clenched around his note. He was Undesired, his destiny was to never be wanted. His mother didn't want him. His father didn't want him. No one would want him. He was alone, and without help, he would probably die. It would do everyone a favor.
It started to rain. Undesired slipped the note into his pocket so it wouldn't dissolve. It may have been horrible, but that note was the only thing left of his mother. He had to keep it safe. There was nothing else.
He curled up in the alley, alone and unprotected from the rain. There was a dead rat nearby. He watched as flies devoured the corpse. The rat was falling to pieces. For a while, he just watched it rot. Would that be him soon? Was this his fate? To die in a dirty alleyway like that rat? Alone and unloved? He wondered; would anyone be sad when he died? Would they cry?
Undesired wondered for a long time. He just lay there and watched and waited. He didn't notice as he started to sweat despite the cold and rain or as he developed a heavy cough. He didn't so much as blink until footsteps echoed through the alley. Still, he didn't look up as a shadow loomed over. Was it death? When his gaze met the kindest blue eyes he'd ever seen, he was taken aback. He rather liked death's appearance.
Death knelt down beside him and gently touched his forehead. "You're really burning up, Boyo." (3) Undesired coughed and curled into himself but still kept a wary eye on the stranger. "What happened; you hurt?" Undesired glanced back at the rat and began to cough and quiver. The man moved his hand and soothingly stroked the younger's green hair, despite it being wet and filthy. "Shhh, it's okay, Boyo. Here…" He took off his jacket and wrapped it around the other like a blanket. "Let's get you out of the rain." Undesired felt himself get picked up and held against the man's chest. Death was warm and comfortable. Undesired easily fell asleep in his embrace.
When he awoke, he felt so wonderful and safe. Where was he? The orphanage wasn't anything like this. Still, his mind felt clear and his body less weak. Everything was going to be all right. Undesired snuggled into the nearby warmth with a contented sigh. However, he didn't expect the warmth to speak.
"Good morning, Sunshine. Glad to see you're up." Undesired blinked, looking up. Blue eyes again, except this time, the eyes were attached to a tan face with dark hair and a lot of stubble. The man felt extremely muscled and wore a soldier's uniform—similar to one of a high-ranking officer of the Marines, except the word justice was crossed out. A large warm hand gently rested on his forehead. "Your fever's finally broke, eh, Boyo?" Undesired didn't respond. Instead, he noticed that he was lying in this man's lap and covered with a blanket. They were on one of the beaches near his village, hidden by the large rocks. Undesired had never been to this place before, but the older kids sometimes went off here. "Don't be shy; talk to me." Undesired refused to meet the man's eye. What was he supposed to say?
"Not much of a talker, are you? It's only been about a day since I found you, but you recover real fast. You must be a strong one. Only need some sleep and you're back on your feet. I like that in a 'boyo'." Undesired blushed. No one had ever said that they liked something about him before.
"…How come you keep calling me that?" he asked in a small voice.
"What? You mean 'Boyo'? Cuz you're a boy and I like ya, so you're Boyo. Unless you'd rather tell me your name." Undesired's eyes widened as he shook his head frantically. This man can't know! If he did, he wouldn't like him anymore.
For the first time since they met, the man frowned. "Something wrong, Boyo? You not like your name?" Undesired looked up at him with desperate green eyes. The man tousled his hair. "I'm not big on my name either. In fact, I hate it so much that I want you to call me Heishi-san (4) instead."
"H-heishi-san…?" The man smiled.
"Yup, cuz I'm a soldier, and it's cute when you say it, Boyo." Undesired couldn't help himself as he began to laugh. He didn't even know he could laugh. Heishi-san grinned. "You've got a good laugh. A boyo should laugh." He patted the other's head none-too-lightly. "Well, if you still don't wanna tell me your name, then tell me what you were doing out there all alone in the rain." The next thing Undesired knew, he was telling Heishi-san all about the horrible orphanage and Matron, about the other kids and the beatings, but he kept out everything relating to his name.
At the end of his tale, the soldier just asked, "So you've got nowhere to go then, Boyo?" Undesired just shook his head. He had been ready to die hours beforehand rather than return to the way things were before. "Well then, wanna come with me?" The boy's world seemed to stop. He looked up at Heishi-san in awe and disbelief.
"R-really…?" The other raised an eyebrow.
"Why would I lie about something like that?" That was it for Undesired. He threw himself on Heishi-san hugging him and crying his eyes out. "Now don't do that," he joked. "It's not becoming of a boyo." But Undesired couldn't stop. He just cried and whispered his thanks over and over again. He wanted to stay with this man, the only person to ever show him kindness, more than anything in the world.
"I do have one condition for any boyos who wanna come with me." Undesired looked up, confused. Heishi-san grinned. "You gotta tell me your name." And his happiness shattered. Heishi-san couldn't know. He'd never let him come with if he knew. He'd act just like the rest and abandon or ostracize him. Undesired shook his head, burying his face in the other's chest.
"No! I can't. I can't, Heishi-san!" The soldier frowned, wondering just why the boy's name was so upsetting to him.
"Why not?" he asked, soothingly rubbing circles on the other's back.
"B-because y-you'll h-h-hate me!" Heishi-san frowned.
"Why would I ever hate you, Boyo? I'd never hate you because of something like that, I swear. I won't let you down." Undesired refused to meet the other's eyes.
"Undesired…" he whispered. Heishi-san either didn't hear him or didn't believe him.
"Undesired…my name is Undesired. My mother left me with a note that just said 'Undesired,' so that's what Matron named me." Heishi-san's expression hardened like stone. For a moment, Undesired was certain that the other had gone back on his word. Maybe he did hate him now, just like everyone else.
"That won't do at all. We can't have a cute little boyo like you running around with a name like 'Undesired.' I won't stand for it. No, we'll have to come up with a better name for you. Hm…" Heishi-san was quiet for a moment until he exclaimed, "Roronoa Zoro!"
"…What?" A smile returned to Heishi-san's face.
"Roronoa Zoro. From now on, your name is Roronoa Zoro."
" Because it suits you. So how 'bout it?" Before Undesired could even respond, the other cut in, "No, too late! I like it too much. Your name's Roronoa Zoro whether you like it or not." The boy, now dubbed Zoro, just stared at his new caretaker, mouth agape. He'd decided to stay with a crazy person. Still, he couldn't help but grin. He had a name now. A real name. "Now then, Zoro, let's say we find ourselves something to eat before we starve." He lifted the other onto his shoulders and began to walk. "We're off to bigger and better places, Boyo!" Zoro just sighed happily, snuggling closer to his new favorite person in the world. Life was good.
I ran a hand through Roronoa's hair, my mind reeling from all that I was just told. "So you traveled with him for a while," I asked. He shook his head.
"Not long enough. Only three years. Heishi-san was a swordsman. He always preferred his claymore to guns in a fight, and he started teaching me. But I was no good at fighting with a claymore. Plus it was way too big for me. But I still tried. He took to calling me his 'little samurai' since I apparently wielded his sword like a katana. Probably the reason why I sucked so bad." Roronoa spoke with a dreamy smile on his face. It was obvious to me that he loved this "Heishi-san" with all his heart. It was strange, but I actually found myself becoming jealous.
"What happened to him?" I questioned, suppressing my negative feelings.
The look on Roronoa's face was enough to break anyone's heart. "The Marines," he whispered with a haunted expression. "They took him away from right in front of me and left me to die. I tried to stop them…I really did, but I wasn't strong enough." Roronoa was shaking at this point.
I tried soothing him into a calmer state, saying, "You were an eight year old boy; there's not much you could've done." But Roronoa didn't care.
"I was right there! I couldn't do anything for him! And…and," Roronoa paused, holding back tears, "if I hadn't been with him…he would've been fine!"
"Roronoa…what?" I couldn't believe it. He blamed himself? Roronoa buried his face in his hands.
"It's all my fault," he mumbled. "Oh god, it's all my fault!"
Zoro worked tirelessly with a large stick he'd found, trying to imitate Heishi-san with his claymore. He looked over to the soldier, only to find him lying on his side in his usual "napping" position. It was one of Heishi-san's more intriguing habits. When he wasn't training, fighting, or playing with Zoro, he was indulging in one of his favorite pastimes: sleeping. He only ever awoke when he wanted to or when there was danger. All in all, Heishi-san was a very laid-back individual; it took nothing short of the threat of imminent death to get him on his feet.
Heishi-san cracked an eye open, smiling. "You still at it, Boyo? Take a break. Come over here." It didn't take much convincing for the little swordsman to drop his stick and rush over to his guardian, a grin on his face. Heishi-san pulled Zoro into a hug. "You're getting better, my little samurai." Zoro shook his head, blushing.
"I'm still pretty bad at it," he mumbled.
"Yup," said the man with a smile.
"You're not supposed to agree!" cried Zoro, causing Heishi-san to laugh. The boy pouted, sulking. The soldier tousled his hair.
"Aw, don't be like that. I wasn't talking about your form, anyway. I meant your reflexes are much better than they used to be." Zoro blinked.
"Uh-huh, and reflexes are the basis for swordsmanship. You'll make a fine samurai someday." Zoro grew even redder at that statement. He buried his face in Heishi-san's collar.
"B-but, I wanna use a claymore like you…"
"Nope," he denied with that same smile, "you're not suited for a claymore. Boyos like you are made for katana." Zoro pouted again. "It'll be fun, little samurai. Trust me; you'll like katana. I'll show you as soon as I can find a good one. You don't even have to use just one either. With a claymore, one is plenty, but with a katana, you can use one, two, or even three!"
"Well, it's very simple actually, one in each hand and one in your mouth. You can call it 'Santoryuu'."
"Heishi-san, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! Plus, Santoryuu's not a very creative name."
The soldier pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. "You wound me, Boyo." Zoro giggled. "Tell you what," began Heishi-san as he pulled something out of his pocket. "When you learn kendo and go out on your own seeking adventure, you can wear this." The man wrapped something around Zoro's head. "It's a bandana. It can be your trademark. You wear it during battle, get it?"
Zoro took off the black bandana and stared at it in awe. Then with out warning, he tackled Heishi-san in a hug. "Thank you!" he cried. The soldier had to grin. His boyo was so dramatic. Heishi-san sat up, pulling the smaller into his lap.
"But only wear it in battle. A swordsman has to separate his battle persona from his regular self. That way, even the gentlest boyo like you can be as ruthless and unflinching as he needs to be in a fight. Understand?" Zoro blinked, shaking his head. Heishi-san just chuckled. "You will someday. Until then, wear the bandana on your head while you fight and wear it around your arm while you're just being Boyo." Zoro nodded, tying the bandana around his arm with a smile.
For a while, Zoro just sat contentedly by Heishi-san as the other slept. He was just about to drift off himself when a heavy body quickly fell over his, shielding it as gunshots resounded through the area.
"Zoro, are you hurt?" Shocked speechless, Zoro just shook his head, eyes wide. "Good, now go hide, I'll take care of this."
Hours later, long after the sun had set, Zoro and Heishi-san sat around the campfire. Zoro could barely stay awake. He had been hurt during the earlier fight. One of the men Heishi-san fought had smashed his head with the butt of his rifle. The wound throbbed now as he laid his bandaged head in Heishi-san's lap. Still, he had never seen the soldier so angry. He had looked demonic as he turned furious eyes towards the man who had been holding up a barely-conscious Zoro by the collar. Zoro had almost pitied the man who did it.
"Are you hurting at all?" Heishi-san asked as he methodically stroked his head just below where the wound was.
"No," Zoro lied. Heishi-san smiled softly.
"You're such a trooper." Zoro could feel the other's hand shaking like a leaf.
"What's wrong?" asked the boy in a small voice. "You're shaking, Heishi-san." The hand briefly stopped its ministrations before continuing.
"I was careless. You got hurt today, Zoro. I've never been so scared…watching that bastard hurt you and hold you up like a prize. I never worried like that until I met you. Never." He paused as if searching for the right words. "Zoro…I know we're not related, and I know I've only known you less than half your life, but…Zoro, you're my son. If anything ever happened to you…" Heishi-san trailed off as if the thought itself was simply too horrible to consider. Zoro didn't have the energy to really cry, but a few tears escaped.
"Me too…y-you're my dad, Heishi-san," he managed. "The best dad in the whole world." The soldier smiled. They were quiet for a while.
"Heishi-san," Zoro began after a few minutes, "why have men with guns been chasing us lately?" Heishi-san paused, considering the best way to phrase this to an eight-year-old with a head injury.
"They're after me. They wanna throw me in jail because, to them, I'm a bad man."
"Heishi-san isn't bad!" Zoro shouted, though he winced after he made his head throb.
"Shh," the man soothed, "they just don't know what's good and bad anymore, those Marines. Never join the Marines, Zoro. They don't know how to do their own jobs."
"Okay," agreed the boy without a second thought, making Heishi-san smile.
"Never do anything you don't want to. I want Roronoa Zoro to be a person who never regrets anything he's ever done and never will." Zoro nodded. "Find nakama who you'd lay down your life for and never let them down. You're gonna be great, Roronoa Zoro; I just know it." Zoro nodded again sleepily. "Get some sleep, Boyo; you need it." He didn't have to be told twice.
The next morning, it was apparent that Zoro needed a doctor. His wound had swollen severely, and he was having trouble breathing. The soldier almost couldn't bear to look into those unfocused green eyes that seemed to struggle to even just recognize him.
"H-h-heishi-san…" he mumbled in between pants. The man picked him up easily, cradling Zoro in his arms.
"Hang in there, Boyo," he murmured as he began to walk. "I'm gonna find you a doctor, okay?" The boy nodded listlessly, his mind growing fuzzier by the moment. "Damn," cursed Heishi-san. "I'd no idea he'd hit you so hard. I'm almost glad I killed the bastard." Zoro curled up in his arms, letting a whimper escape him. Heishi-san's eyes softened. He pressed a kiss to his boyo's messy green locks. "Everything's gonna be all right, Zoro. We'll get you to a village soon."
By the time the two actually reached a village, Zoro was a sweating, panting mess. His illness was so obvious that several different villagers pointed the way to the doctor after just glancing at the pair. Heishi-san gave the doctor fake names (Hunter for Heishi-san and Jack for Zoro). The marines were still close by, and they couldn't afford to be caught. The doctor did all he could for Zoro. He would make a full recovery as long as he got plenty of rest, but they didn't have time for that. The soldier would have to take Zoro from the infirmary that night lest the marines catch them. It would be hard on him, and the wound probably wouldn't heal correctly, but it was the only choice they had.
That night, after both Zoro and the doctor had gone to sleep, Heishi-san snuck into the infirmary. The boy on the bed was still pale but seemed to be doing much better than before. The man wished he could let Zoro stay the night, but he had no choice. Gingerly, he unhooked the fluid-replacing IV from the smaller's arm. At the new sensation, Zoro stirred, but Heishi-san easily soothed him back to sleep. He wrapped the blanket around the boy and left the hospital without a trace. Heishi-san travelled swiftly as he tried to put as much distance between him and the marines as possible. Zoro didn't so much as move the entire time, and it worried him.
When Zoro finally awoke, it was almost sundown the next day. Heishi-san had been making camp when he heard a small voice call his name. Relief flooded the man's being. He knelt down beside the boy. "Hey, Sleepy-head," he murmured, "how're ya feeling?" He brushed his fingers through Zoro's coarse green hair.
"Okay," whispered Zoro, though he was obviously far from it. The soldier still appreciated the sentiment.
"Are you hungry?" The boy shook his head. "What can I do for you, Boyo?"
"Water?" Heishi-san smiled, handing the other a canteen. Zoro was practically falling asleep as he relieved his parched throat.
"How about a story?" The boy handed him the canteen before lying back down.
" 'M not a baby," he mumbled. The man chuckled.
"I don't care, Boyo. You're getting a story whether you like it or not." Zoro sighed, resigning himself to Heishi-san's will. He curled up in the man's lap. "Well, my little samurai, how 'bout I tell you the story of the swordsman king, Ryuuma?" He smiled at the attention he'd gained from the word "swordsman." "Yup, Ryuuma had the warrior's soul. He'd fight a man just because their sheathes touched because in his eyes, hitting the scabbard was the same as hitting the swordsman." Zoro seemed to be in awe. He gazed up at Heishi-san, transfixed. "And here's the story of how brave Ryuuma fought and killed the strongest of all creatures, a dragon…" (5)
Heishi-san smiled at the fast-asleep Zoro. He'd been right: a story had done the trick. Now his boyo was sleeping much more peacefully than before. His breathing deep, and his complexion back to normal. It was a nice break for the both of them.
However, the peaceful break was shattered as Heishi-san heard a rustling in the bushes.
He tensed, eyes narrowing. With as little motion as possible, the man moved Zoro off his lap and reached for his claymore. Zoro stirred, glancing up at Heishi-san with dazed eyes; it was immediately apparent to the boy that something was wrong. Heishi-san had to admit, his little samurai's instincts were getting quite good. The older put a finger to his lips to indicate quiet.
With a flick of his wrist, Heishi-san decimated the bushes, revealing several marines. Marines started revealing themselves from everywhere. The group was mostly made up of no-name soldiers with one high-ranking official. All in all, they were cornered. Heishi-san pushed Zoro behind him and turned to the high-ranking marine.
"Vice-Admiral Lionel Beast, what a surprise to see you all the way in the East Blue." There was a dry smirk on Heishi-san's face and a demonic glint in his eye. He looked nothing like the playful and caring man Zoro knew so well. What Heishi-san had said earlier about the "battle persona" started to make a lot more sense. The boy backed away, knowing that this could get ugly.
The marine took a step forward. "Justice stops at nothing. You defected from my regiment. It's only fitting that I should be the one to take you out, Ex-Rear-Admiral Diego de la Vega. (6) Or should I say 'Pirate Hunter Vega'?" Zoro looked between the two men frantically. "Diego de la Vega" was Heishi-san's real name? Why had he never been told?
Still, as he looked at this man called Beast, he knew it didn't matter. He didn't like this man at all. He reminded Zoro of the Matron, that same cruelty and hatred. He would trust Heishi-san over this man any day.
Then, a younger soldier stepped forward. The vice-admiral rolled his eyes. "Yes, Lieutenant," he snapped. The lieutenant winced.
"Permission to speak, sir?" The vice-admiral glared but nodded nonetheless. The young man turned to Heishi-san, eyes sad. "Why did you do it? You rose the ranks faster than even Monkey D. Garp. You were so great. Why did you do what you did?" Heishi-san smiled wryly.
"I was sick of everything. Sick of the hypocrisy. Sick of hunting down criminals that were kinder people than my superior officers. Sick of killing good people and calling it 'justice.' After Ohara, I'd had enough." The lieutenant looked torn but said nothing.
"Enough," thundered the vice-admiral. "Diego de la Vega, you have committed crimes to the state and must be taken to Enies Lobby to be judged." Beast smirked. "Will you come quietly?" Heishi-san snorted with a feral grin.
"Honestly, Vice-Admiral, how long have you known me?"
The addressed laughed. "I was hoping you'd say that. Soldiers! Attack at will." Heishi-san brandished his claymore as the soldiers stepped forward.
"Hou? (7) Think you all can take me?"
Zoro hid behind a tree, knowing that he'd only get in the way as much as he wanted to fight beside his Heishi-san. The soldiers charged and Heishi-san crouched low like a tiger ready to pounce. Then, with a cry of "Oni Giri!" half of the soldiers were sent flying. Zoro watched in awe.
Zoro was so entranced by Heishi-san's grace, power, and sheer skill that he didn't notice the missing vice-admiral until he was grabbed roughly from behind and held in the air for all to see, a gun pressed against his head.
Heishi-san was facing the other way as Beast called out, "I noticed you were with a young boy earlier, Diego." Heishi-san stiffened, his aura growing dangerous, ominous.
"If you so much as touch him, I'll…" he turned, trailing off as he saw the loaded gun pressed against his boyo's head. "Zoro!" he cried out terrified. The vice-admiral smirked.
"I think we have an understanding. Now then, why don't you throw that sword away from you, nice and easy." Zoro grimaced as Heishi-san complied. He was just a bargaining chip at this point. He was the reason Heishi-san was about to get captured by this horrible man. Zoro clenched his eyes shut in frustration.
"I'll do anything you want," conceded Heishi-san. Nothing was more important than Zoro's safety, not pride, not justice, not even his own life. "Just leave Zoro out of this." Beast chuckled, causing rage to fill Zoro's entire being. No. He wouldn't let them hurt Heishi-san. He was everything to Zoro. He refused to sit idly by as they took his father away from him!
Gritting his teeth, Zoro used all his strength (already limited from his head-wound) and pushed the vice-admiral's arms away from him as he kicked backwards, hitting him in the stomach. Beast was so surprised by the sudden aggression from his hostage that his finger slipped on the trigger. Two shots were fired. Zoro rolled out of the man's arms and over to Heishi-san. He clutched as his left arm, a bullet pierced through the flesh. The vice-admiral wasn't faring much better. He had shot his own leg.
Heishi-san picked up his ailing boyo and cradled him to his chest. "It's all right, my little samurai. You were magnificent. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." With Zoro securely in his arms, Heishi-san grabbed his claymore and made a run for it.
Another round of shots rang out. Heishi-san stumbled and collapsed. Zoro rolled away from him, clutching his injured arm. Heishi-san had been shot. Twice in the back and in his left knee. The vice-admiral stood on shaky legs, the smoking gun in his hands.
"Nice try," he sneered before limping right past Heishi-san and over to Zoro. "Little shit," he snarled, "how dare you make me shoot myself!" He aimed the gun at Zoro's head.
"No!" cried both Heishi-san and the lieutenant at the same time. The latter ran over to the vice-admiral.
"Please, sir, he's only a boy! He didn't know what he was doing. We only need Vega, sir. Please, no unnecessary bloodshed." Beast backhanded the lieutenant.
"Who gives the orders here?" he snarled. "Even if he is just a boy, he's also an accomplice of Vega's. That's a crime worthy of execution." He turned back to Zoro. "Now then. Where were we?" Before the vice-admiral could even blink, he was on the ground, a claymore aimed at his throat.
Heishi-san saw red. The sight of his boyo on the ground bleeding while his former commanding officer aimed a gun at his head with killing intent was far too much. He would make him pay. He pressed the claymore deeper against the vice-admirals throat, and Beast saw his death in his eyes. Heishi-san was no longer a man but a demon.
The sound of dozens of rifles being cocked at once brought Heishi-san back to reality. If he killed Beast here, he would be shot, and Zoro would be completely unprotected. He'd have to bargain. "I'll say it again," he growled menacingly, "leave Zoro out of this and I'll come quietly. I'll even let you have your vice-admiral back."
It was the lieutenant who stood and said, "We'll accept," despite his rank. Heishi-san gently tossed his claymore to the side and removed himself from Beast.
"Restrain the criminal," the vice-admiral ordered, his pride obviously wounded. He glanced back at Zoro, eyes narrowing. "You got lucky this time, kid." Zoro watched through dazed eyes as they chained Heishi-san and began to lead him off. The boy was about to give up and lose consciousness. Then, Heishi-san turned one last time, giving Zoro a smile that said, "You did good, Boyo. Take care of yourself."
But Zoro couldn't just leave it at that.
No. They wouldn't take Heishi-san away. Never. Heishi-san was his father, the only one who ever loved him. The most important person in the entire world. And Zoro would fight to the death for him.
Zoro tied the black bandana around his head and stumbled over to Heishi-san's forgotten claymore. It was impossibly heavy, especially with an injured arm, but Zoro didn't care. He would get Heishi-san back, even if it killed him. With that, he charged.
He managed to take out three soldiers, swinging the claymore wildly, with the same demonic glint in his eye that Heishi-san was famous for in the marines. He went for a fourth and a fifth.
"Zoro! What are you doing? Run away!" But Heishi-san's cries fell on deaf ears. After taking down a sixth soldier, Zoro went for Heishi-san's chains. Again and again, he swung at them, ignoring Heishi-san's frantic pleas for him to leave. It was no use; the steel was far too strong. Still, Zoro tried and tried until…
A sharp pain between his shoulder blades.
Zoro fell, dropping Heishi-san's precious claymore. He crumpled, falling to the ground unmoving.
His eyes saw nothing. His ears heard nothing. He could only feel that pain, unbearable agony.
And then, darkness.
"You call escaping from a vice-admiral, getting shot twice, and taking out six soldiers with a head wound nothing," I asked incredulously.
"What…?" Roronoa seemed dumbstruck at the question. I sighed.
"You told me that you 'couldn't do anything,' but it sounds to me that you did everything just short of actually dying." It still didn't seem to make him feel any better.
"I still couldn't save him." I swear to the god I don't believe in, he was feeling guilty that he wasn't able to destroy an entire marine unit by himself at age eight. Roronoa did have rather high expectations for himself.
"No," I agreed. It was the truth after all. "You couldn't save him, but if you ask me, most eight year olds would have given up before they were shot the first time." He nodded, but he still didn't seem to believe me. In fact, he had the same look in his eyes as earlier: disgust with himself.
I grabbed his face in my hands, furious that he would even consider blaming himself instead of Beast. "Roronoa," I called warningly. He wouldn't look me in the eye. "Look at me, Roronoa!" I practically snarled. This got his attention. "It. Wasn't. Your. Fault. It wasn't your fault."
"It wasn't your fault, Zoro."
"I-it wasn't my fault," he mumbled, looking away.
"Like you mean it."
"It wasn't my…it wasn't my…it was my fault!" Roronoa fell against me, sobbing. "Mihawk, it was my fault. It was all my fault!" I couldn't seem to get through to the fool. He'd had over ten years to convince himself that Vega's death was his fault. Getting him to realize the truth…this was going to take a while. I sighed, lightly patting his head. The least I could do was distract him.
"What happened next?" He took a moment to compose himself, then shrugged, looking drained.
"I woke up three days later in some random village. The doctor who'd treated me…said I barely made it, and most kids would've been dead twice over. I still have the scars to prove it. Guess some things never change." He laughed mirthlessly. "I found a newspaper…it said Heishi-san was taken to Impel Down to be executed later that month. I'd never even heard of Impel Down before then, so I didn't know where he was or what I could do for him. I was also mentioned in the article…it said he was with a young green-haired boy called Zoro. It said I was dead, but I knew I still had to be careful. So, for a while I went by the name of 'Jack' like Heishi-san said. The first time after Heishi-san I ever used my real name was when I went to the dojo. I still used 'Jack' everywhere else though. I only really stopped after I turned in my first bounty. They knew 'Jack' was a fake and made me give them information like age and place of birth and stuff. When I gave them my real name, and I wasn't arrested on the spot, I figured I was safe." Roronoa had made the right choice. I remembered hearing about "Vega's accomplice," and how the death was unconfirmed. I wondered what Roronoa would think if I told him all marines stationed in the East Blue were supposed to be on the lookout for him. He'd done a good job at hiding himself.
I leaned back, considering all this. As I absentmindedly ran a hand through his hair, I noticed that Roronoa's fever was rising. "You should rest," I said simply, but he shook his head though he could barely keep his eyes open. He was a stubborn one, my pupil, but I had an idea. It was rather diabolical, but I was sure Roronoa would appreciate it. I pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead and whispered, "Rest, my little samurai." Roronoa's eyes briefly misted over with tears again before he allowed them to close as he finally fell asleep. For a while I just watched him sleep. I considered Roronoa's infamous nickname. "Pirate Hunter." It was almost unheard of for two men to share the same epithet; I could only think that it had something to do with that lieutenant. He probably had considerable power by now, being in the unit that took down Diego de la Vega. He probably gave Roronoa that epithet as a way of apologizing. Still, I couldn't believe that my student was raised by the original Pirate Hunter; though, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. "Diego de la Vega," I murmured half to myself and half to the sleeping Roronoa. "I fought him once…before I was a Shichibukai. He wasn't bad." I smiled fondly at my student. "I hope you know that your 'Oni Giri' doesn't hold a candle to his." Roronoa mumbled something incomprehensible in his sleep, and I chose to take that as a yes.
After a day and a half, he was back on his feet, feeling better both mentally and physically, and my curiosity was satiated.
Months passed, and I found myself growing closer to Roronoa and vice versa. His eye healed into a scar to forever be a reminder of my folly, and from then on, his injuries were few and far in-between.
I was proud. Am proud.
Still, there were times when I would catch Roronoa with a blank look, and in these moments, it was obvious that he was blaming himself. When I found him in that self-hating stupor, I would force him to say, "It wasn't my fault," until he was blue in the face. Whether or not he started to believe it was hard to say.
Stranger still, I would often find him staring at me with the same dreamy expression he wore whenever he spoke of his "Heishi-san." I knew exactly what this meant, and that this couldn't be a good thing. Roronoa wasn't seeing just a teacher or a rival anymore.
He was seeing a father.
And I was seeing a son.
But if Roronoa wanted to fulfill his dream, I would have to die by his hands. Could he bring himself to kill his father figure? I wasn't so sure.
But it was something I could never know until that day. The day that we fight for the last time. Until then, I could be his father, and he could be my son.
But damn if we weren't a dysfunctional family.
The day Roronoa left with the ghost princess for Sabaody Archipelago, I saw them off. I clasped my hand around Roronoa's shoulder and gave him a meaningful stare. I smiled.
And that was enough.
Well, for me it was, not for Roronoa.
He hugged me. He actually hugged me. And I enjoyed it enough to hug back. I couldn't believe it. He mumbled something about taking my head into my shoulder, but I could tell he didn't mean it.
This was going to be a problem.
This was one of the many reasons I didn't want to train him in the first place: training leads to attachment. Nonetheless, I decided I could deal with the consequences for now, whatever they may be. I could be Roronoa's father until that day finally came, when Roronoa raised his sword with intent to kill me. If he couldn't manage it because he only saw a father then…it was then that I realized that it didn't matter to me. If Roronoa could do it, then he could do it, but if he couldn't…well, I would still have an idiot son to watch over.
With a new resolve that I didn't quite understand, I watched him get on the boat, ready to return to his nakama. And that was enough for the both of us.
*My god! That was a LONG oneshot. Because here in Kaiser's mind, we don't know the meaning of the word drabble! Anyway, it kinda ended up as a study of Mihawk and Zoro, didn't it? I like how that works (head-desk). I also like how Heishi-san came up with Zoro's name in about 10 seconds. I mean, a name's a name, but I would hope that most parents put more thought into it. He just kinda yelled it out of the blue. Betcha 5 bucks that's how my parents named me!
Here, have some footnotes!
1- My friend came up with the original idea of an orphan named Undesired, though the context is very different. Still, I didn't feel right doing this without giving her MAJOR credit, because that idea sort of shaped the rest of the story though it was only a small part. I have no idea how she comes up with her ideas, but I want to marry her brain. Yes. You heard me. When she first told me about it, I literally laughed my ass off saying, "That's the most horrible thing I've ever heard!" Seriously, an orphan named Undesired? That's AWFUL! Incidentally, the matron in my story is called Matron Trunchbull, named for the evil principal in Matilda. Great book and movie, btw. And you know the Matron also has an iron maiden in her office.
2- This is how Wiki describes Seiza: "One first kneels on the floor, folding one's legs underneath one's thighs, while resting the buttocks on the heels. The ankles are turned outward as the tops of the feet are lowered so that, in a slight "V" shape, the tops of the feet are flat on the floor and big toes are overlapped, and the buttocks are finally lowered all the way down. Depending on the circumstances, the hands are folded modestly in the lap, or are placed palm down on the upper thighs with the fingers close together, or are placed on the floor next to the hips, with the knuckles rounded and touching the floor. The back is kept straight, though not unnaturally stiff. Traditionally, women sit with the knees together while men separate them slightly." It's considered polite in Japan. Btws, it's a little hard to picture, so I recommend you google image search it. Trust me, you'll recognize it.
3- Boyo is like saying Kiddo I'm assuming. I don't know, really, and I'm almost positive it's not meant to be used as a common noun in the manner that I used it, but nevertheless, I don't care! I like the way I used it, so there.
4- Heishi means soldier apparently. Honestly, I heard it's a synonym for Senshi, which I know for sure means soldier, but I thought Heishi-san sounded better than Senshi-san.
5- Ryuuma briefly appeared in One Piece as the zombie that had Brook's shadow in Thriller Bark, but he was originally in a manga anthology of Oda's called Wanted! It was a short story of the swordsman Ryuuma who supposedly was the basis for Zoro, and he did in fact pwn a dragon in the face. So, if you have time, read the anthology, there are some pretty interesting stories in there, many of which have similar characters to One Piece. It's pretty cool.
6- Don Diego de la Vega is Zorro's secret identity in the original novels. I thought it'd be an interesting name for Heishi-san to have considering that our Zoro is named after Antonio Banderas…by which I mean Zorro.
7- "Hou" is a non-committal noise or something that Zoro tends to say in the anime when he and an enemy are talking smack about each other. Since Heishi-san is supposed to have the same mannerisms as Zoro, I figured he'd use it too.
And once again my footnotes prove that I am completely inept! Funny how that works. Anyway, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed.