Ah, hi! I'm not sure if I've still got any of my old followers who are still hanging around, but if you are, thank you so much for your patience! If you're new, welcome (I am a slow updater)! I've only recently caught up with One Piece and it was enough to inspire me to try and write some more of SWM!
After perhaps one of the most subdued breakfasts on the Going Merry on their journey so far, the Straw Hats had migrated out onto the sun-drenched deck, Luffy happily munching on a tangerine that she had been craving and Nami had agreed that she could eat.
Johnny and Yosaku had stumbled out onto the deck to join them, both having taken to napping in the sun on either side of Zoro.
Stretching his arms high above his head, Ace enjoyed the satisfying crack of his neck as he finished reading the newspaper headlines over Nami's shoulder.
"So, where's out next port of call?" Ace asked.
Tucking the newspaper under her arm, Nami fished out a rolled-up piece of parchment from inside her pocket. Unfurling her map across the deck, Nami trailed a finger across their current location, tracing their potential path to the final island before the Grand Line crossing.
"This is Loguetown." Nami said tapping at the map, "It's famous for being the place where the Pirate King Roger, was born and executed."
Ace flinched at Nami's comment. Pushing down the urge to say or do something he'd regret, Ace leant in to get a better look at where Nami was pointing. The Island looked like any other that he'd seen on a map, but the expanse of blue and just the words 'Grand Line' past the mountain was concerning. "There's a whole lot of blue on the other side of that mountain." Ace commented, pleased that his voice had remained steady through his redirection of the conversation.
Nami grimaced as her own gaze flickered to the unknown. "Detailed maps of the Grand Line are almost impossible to come by in East Blue, and anyone that has anything close to an outline of a Grand Line map guards it closely. We wouldn't even have this one unless I'd swiped it from Buggy."
Sanji frowned from where he leant against Merry's railing, a cigarette dangling between his lips, "The Old Man said that crossing Reverse Mountain is dangerous, but not knowing where we'll be able to resupply on the other side is also concerning."
A spike of fear shot through the air causing Luffy's head to whip around to the source. Gin was shaking. A tremble running up along his arms as he took concentrated breaths. Licking his lips, he moved as if to speak, but then swallowed harshly. He took another several breaths but didn't move to speak again.
"Gin?" Luffy questioned gently, "You okay?"
Despite nodding his head, Gin's body continued to shake, his knee bouncing with agitated energy. "It's... It's not the mountain so much. A clear day, a good wind, and we'll make the entrance to the mountain easy. It's just… It's just what's on the other side. We… I… there was just no food for days. Just so hungry."
Shifting across the deck to be seated beside Gin, Luffy bumped their shoulders together, and wrapped up one of Gin's clenched hands in her own hands, squeezing it.
"We'll head to this town. Sanji will stock us up ready for a couple of weeks at least, and we'll have Nami's tangerine trees and fish if we get low, but we'll beat up anyone who tries to fight us on the other side." Luffy said, nodding her head decisively.
Usopp shot a slightly wide-eyed look to Johnny and Yosaku, who were unfortunately both still too bleary eyed from their night shift and late morning sleep in respectively, to notice much beyond the map in front of them. Not finding any solidarity from that corner of the crew, Usopp rubbed his arms where goose bumps now lined his skin. Resupplying food was good, great even! But had he mentioned his illness against going up dangerous mountains recently?
However, as Luffy threw her hands in the air with an excited exclamation, Usopp somehow didn't think that his illness, his very serious, life threatening, illness, was going to be taken into consideration.
As per the Captain's orders, to Loguetown and the Grand Line it was.
Luffy bounced on her toes, eager to get out and explore the death place of the Pirate King. Ace knew that Luffy would have preferred that they went together, but he couldn't stomach the thought of what he would hear in the town people's whispers. Luffy had likely sensed his dark thoughts and discomfort, as she hadn't given more than a half-hearted attempt at convincing him to change his mind.
Ace leant against Merry's railing as Luffy bound down the gangplank, Johnny and Yosaku tripping over themselves as they both clambered to chatter alongside Luffy. As Gin made to follow the group, Ace caught his arm, "Keep an eye on her for me?"
Gin nodded sharply, "'Course."
Ace's shoulders dropped, Gin would keep her out of at least some of the trouble she would no doubt find, and even if she didn't find trouble, it never hurt to have someone sensible at least keeping an eye on Luffy and the others.
"Gin! Come on!" Luffy shouted, twisting backwards to see what was keeping her tonfa-wielding crew mate.
Letting Gin go, Ace waved them off, "Don't have too much fun without me, Lu."
Rapping his hands against Merry's railing, Ace pushed off the wood to see what the others were planning. After all, just because he didn't want anything to do with the island, didn't mean that the others wouldn't want the chance to spend their time on solid ground.
Ace didn't make it far before the sounds of Nami scheming and Zoro's grumbling filled his ears.
"I'll lend you the money for your swords with 300% interest."
Before Zoro could agree to the outlandish deal, Ace butted into their conversation.
"Zoro can have the money taken out of the collective treasure."
"What?! Why?!" Nami screeched.
"Zoro uses three swords. As one of our main fighters on board, he needs his blades replaced. The safety of the crew comes first."
Nami pursed his lips at the explanation but didn't argue against the offered logic or orders. Useless as he was at times, Zoro did take his role of fighter and swordsman seriously.
"Fine. But I'm going with you. There's no way I'm letting you pay full price for two swords."
Gripping Zoro's wrist, Nami strode forward intent on getting the best deal. The evil glint in Nami's eyes was enough to encourage Zoro to keep his mouth shut as Nami tugged him forward, offering a nod of thanks to Ace instead. At least this way he wouldn't be indebted to Nami until the day he died.
The speed at which Nami had powered through the streets, meant that they'd made it to the store in less than time than Zoro would have if he'd been left to set his own course and ambling pace.
"Oh no you don't." Nami said, snagging the back of his shirt as he made for the stores counter, "You can start here at the 50,000 beli barrel. If there's nothing that's suitable then you can move up to the 100,000 beli barrel, maybe. Understand?"
Zoro rolled his eyes but let Nami tug him over to the barrel she'd zeroed in on the second they'd passed through the door.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, witch."
Rifling through the swords he was 'allowed' to look at, Zoro couldn't quite ignore Nami as she stalked around the shop intimidating the shop keeper, her mutterings of money buzzing in the background. She could say what she wanted about her not being a pirate, but in his time at sea, Zoro had never seen anyone, pirate or otherwise, scare a shop keeper quite as well as the witch could.
Case in point, the shop assistant who had been settled behind the counter, was now sweating up a storm, hands wringing together, as he stuttered out responses to Nami's rapid fire questioning of the price and quality of his wares.
Shifting through the sword hilts, Zoro brushed passed an unkept hilt to reach for a newer looking blade. His hand paused as he passed the blade, a tingle running up his arm and down his back. Pulling back, Zoro's fingers skittered just above the swords hilt. Surely not? Gripping the sword, Zoro unsheathed the blade, resting the cool metal against the palm of his hand as he brought it up to eye level.
This was a good blade.
The single word had the shop keeper ignoring Nami for the first time since she'd entered his store.
"Ah! Sir! I'm terribly sorry, but that particular blade isn't for sale."
Shifting his weight onto his back foot, Zoro gripped the sword tighter.
"I want it."
"Ah! Sir! I really must insist, it isn't for sale! As you said, the blade is cursed! It's killed every wielder it's ever had and I don't want to be cursed too!"
Taking in Zoro's grin, Nami leant on the counter, her eyebrow raised and her hand on her hip, "Then don't sell it to him. We'll take it off your hands for free, absolving your responsibility should anything befall my dearly beloved friend here. You didn't sell it. We simply took it."
The shop keeper squeaked at the finger that jabbed into his sternum and then spluttered as Nami's words caught up with him.
"We could test it." Zoro offered, his gaze locked onto the cursed sword, "My luck against its curse."
The shop keepers mouth dropped in a silent shout as Zoro tossed the sword in the air, his arm outstretched and his eyes sliding shut as the sound of the blade slicing through the air filled the shop.
Nami's hands flew to her mouth. Ace was going to kill her. Buy Zoro some swords. That's all she'd had to do. Instead the idiot was going to lose his arm and she'd have to try and explain this mess to Ace – and to Luffy. Nami's eyes scrunched shut. She couldn't watch.
With a twitch of his fingers, Zoro nabbed the blade as it curled passed his arm.
"I'll take it."
The shop keeper's knees gave way, leaving him sprawled on the floor. A sign. It had to be a sign that the curse would no longer affect him. Barely hearing the berating that the swordsman was now enduring from his friend, the shop keeper pushed himself back to his feet.
Scrambling up the steps, he grabbed the sword of all swords that had ever come into his possession. All but slamming it onto the counter, the shop keeper shoved it across the bench.
"Here! Take it!"
"Okay!" Nami gleefully responded on Zoro's behalf.
"Uh… Wait a minute! Don't you want to know what I'm giving you?!"
"Not really! Thanks for the free swords, Mister."
Scooping up the blade, Nami thrust the weapon into Zoro's arms and hightailed it out of the shop, giving Zoro no choice but to follow her back onto the street. Feeling centred having three swords now strapped to his side, Zoro couldn't help but let out a pleased hum. Who knew that shopping with the witch could be so beneficial? Zoro's mood couldn't be dampened, even as he reached out to catch a young woman who stumbled into his path.
"Woah. Are you alright?" Zoro asked as he reached down to pick up the glasses that had shattered on the ground.
"My glasses!" the woman wailed, before seemingly remembering herself, "I am so sorry!"
Zoro brushed off the apology as he handed back the remnants of her glasses, "Eh. Don't sweat it."
"Zoro! Come on! We still have shopping to do!"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming."
Stepping past the woman, Zoro fell into step with Nami, grimacing as she latched onto his wrist once more. It was like she thought he was going to get lost or something.
Sanji flicked through a mental catalogue of recipes as he started to piece together a list of all of the food he'd need to acquire to keep the crew fed for several weeks without restocking. Meat was non-negotiable if he wanted to keep his lovely Captain happy and well-fed. He'd have to devote most – if not all – of their freezer space to meat. He'd also have to see if there were any dried meat options available for worst case scenarios.
Though not his preferred option, canned fruits and vegetables would have to be stocked up for when they ate through the fresh fruit and vegetables that they would be able to carry. Anything that could be stored in the pantry would also need to be bought in generous quantities. With everything on his list, he was going to be laden down with bags worth of food in no time.
Sanji sighed, releasing a puff of smoke as he did. He should have grabbed some of the others before they'd all disappeared off the ship. Of course, he'd never ask his darling Nami or Luffy to do the heavy lifting, but the rest of the dead weight could have been put to work rather than gallivanting around the town. He suspected that Gin had been heading his way to offer to go with him until Luffy had bounded across his path asking him to explore the town with her. Sanji pouted as he thought on the fact that Luffy's offer had been directed at Gin and not himself. Although, Sanji couldn't begrudge Gin of agreeing with her request. He knew that had their positions been reversed, nothing would have stopped him from escorting Luffy wherever she wished to go.
Sanji was just shy of dropping into a daydream about such a situation, when he caught sight of Usopp. The corner of his lips quirked up. Well, it was never going to be as good as spending the day with Luffy or Nami but having someone else to help him lug the groceries back to the ship would have to suffice as a consolation prize.
Luffy's eyes shone as she took in the busy market square and the execution tower standing tall on the opposite side.
"Come on! Come on!" Luffy urged the others, "I wanna see what the view is like from the top!"
"Yeah!" cheered Johnny and Yosaku as they rushed towards the tower alongside Luffy.
Gin shook his head, as long as he could see his cheerful Captain, he was content to cross the square in his own time. His slower pace also increased his time to scan the people milling about the town centre. Whilst most were definitely civilian, there were a number of strangely dressed men that he had doubts about. There was also a number of marines milling in amongst the crowd that could become problematic.
Luffy wasn't widely known. With no bounty, she wasn't likely to be singled out as a threat. Not to mention that with her short-cropped hair, slightly oversized straw hat, plain vest and shorts, she'd likely be confused as a lost tourist than anything else.
As bounty hunters, Johnny and Yosaku were more likely to be recognised, but their exuberant steps and general happy-go-lucky air wouldn't give off any worrying signals to the marines.
No, their biggest give away would be him, having had too many run ins with the law in the past. Taking a steadying breath, Gin shifted his jacket to cover more of his exposed tonfas. As long as they didn't draw attention to themselves it would be fine.
But no sooner had he thought the words, Luffy, Johnny and Yosaku were making a spectacle of themselves atop the execution tower. Picking up his pace, Gin took in the shouted conversation between the police officer and his captain, it would be fine, he could smooth talk a single officer or use force if necessary. However, he was literally beaten to the punch by a lady in an oversized hat, complaining to Luffy about wanting back a weapon that Luffy had apparently stolen. Taking no time to decide the woman was neither a friend to them or the authorities, Gin ghosted up behind her. Twisting around her in a movement meant to confuse bystanders, he struck out at the back of her neck, catching her as she fell and lowering her body to the ground.
The confused calls of the civilians as to why she'd suddenly passed out both pleased and exasperated Gin. Stepping back into the anonymity of the crowd, Gin grimaced as officers began pouring into the square. This was fine. Luffy and the boys would come down, they'd offer an empty apology to the officers for not knowing that they couldn't go up the tower and they'd be on their way.
What he hadn't accounted for was the weirdly dressed men he'd tagged earlier pulling out weapons, upping the tense energy running through the square.
"Gyahaha! Did you think you'd seen the last of me, the Great Captain Buggy?!"
The cloaked shadow that had been standing atop the fountain, flew over him, heading straight for–
Gin's call was cut short as Luffy sidestepped the incoming figure, her hand stretching around the man's neck and pinning him down against the platform. Having snagged Buggy's sword in his attempt to stab her, Luffy thrust the blade down through one of his gloved hands and into the wooden planks below.
Luffy's eyes didn't leave Buggy as he released a soundless cry, his eyes wide with shock.
"Johnny, Yosaku, go find Gin. I'll be down soon."
With speed bourn of shock and slight fear, the ex-bounty hunters scrambled down the tower, insanely glad that they would never have to come up against Luffy themselves.
As Buggy's face began to change colour, Luffy's grip eased just enough for him to take a shallow breath of air.
"You know," Luffy began conversationally, "Shanks mentioned you in his stories. Said you were a friend that never made it big time despite who your Captain was. He died on this platform, right? You won't. Not today. You're lucky Shanks mentioned you – and likes you. Otherwise you'd be dead."
Pushing to her feet, Luffy's eyes glanced over the crowed, taking note of the growing number of marines filling the square. Quickly picking out the familiar flares of fear that marked Gin, Johnny, and Yosaku's location, Luffy stepped away from Buggy, not bothering to dislodge the sword in his hand. Luffy eyed up the distance of the platform to the ground. She'd climbed (and jumped out of) higher tress in the forest back home, but the grass covered ground was a far cry softer than the cobblestones below. Deciding not to risk breaking something, Luffy jumped off the tower, catching onto a beam below and swinging down to the next, continuing the process as she dropped down the rungs until she could safely hit the ground.
As her feet hit the ground, she took off running towards where she'd last seen her nakama. Ace would kill her if she got into a fight without him here.
Seeing her approach, Gin shoved Johnny and Yosaku into a run. Luffy was almost with them and waiting until she got to them would only slow them all down. They needed to get out of here. Turning to sprint through the nearest exit and onto the streets, Gin resolved that unless Ace was also present, there was no way he was agreeing to look out for Luffy again. This was not what he considered 'fine'.
Ignorant to Gin's musings, Luffy grinned as she gained on her crewmates, the marines were in a mess of confusion, unsure who to follow as the civilians also tried to mass exodus the square and a known pirate lay pinned to the execution tower.
Luffy weaved through the crowds, her body twisting as she brushed past a male figure that had clipped her shoulder. A reflection of light drew her eyes back to him, catching a glimpse of a black top hat rimmed with blue goggles, before losing him entirely to the crush of the crowd. Standing still in a sea of people, Luffy didn't notice the boys continuing to run for the ship without her. There was something floating just out of her grasp – a thought – a memory – a feeling – a something that she just couldn't place. Shaking off the ripple of unease, Luffy set back off into a run, hoping that she was heading in the same direction that the others had taken.
Ace looked up from his log book as heavy foot falls reached his ears. Watching the three that had left with Luffy skid to a halt alongside Merry, with no Luffy in sight, Ace could feel his gut pool with dread.
Startled, Gin straightens from where he'd bent over to regain his breath and whips around to look behind him. The grin that had overtaken his face from the thrill of the chase sliding off his face.
"She was right behind us!"
Ace didn't hesitate in jumping off the ship and onto the dock.
"Where did you see her last?"
"The square. She definitely followed us to the same exit of the square." Johnny supplied.
"You two, I want everyone back on board, ready to set sail by the time we get back. Sanji and Usopp are at the market, Nami and Zoro were looking for swords. Gin, run."
Orders issued, Gin took off, retracing the path he'd just come, an anxious Ace half a step behind.
As they raced down the cobbled streets the first drops of rain giving way to an unrelenting deluge, Ace's thoughts were stuck on a single loop.
Please be okay.
Luffy slowed down her run to a jog and then to a walk as the streets emptied of people. Looking around her, Luffy couldn't say with any kind of certainty that she knew where she was.
"Miss?" a gruff voice called out from behind her.
Turning to face the voice, Luffy's jaw clenched at the sight of the soaked marine captain, two cigars smoking between his lips despite the rain. Luffy's forehead crinkled as she looked at him. Really looked at him. He was a little bit like Coby she decided. He'd been jaded by the world but harboured so little darkness. He was a good person, better than most, even if he did seem to believe in the marines and justice.
"I'm Captain Smoker of the Marine Head Quarters. I'd like to know what you were doing on the tower."
Luffy blinked at the statement-phrased question. Shouldn't they be fighting? Luffy felt like they should have been fighting. Having a seemingly polite conversation in the middle of a storm was a bit off putting.
Despite her confusion, she answered him anyway, "I wanted to see the view."
"It's against the law to climb it. You're going to have to come in with me to fill in some papers and pay a fine."
Paper work did not sound like a good idea. Paper work was about the only thing Gramps hated about the marines, and if Gramps didn't like it (his eyes clouded over like he was staring at a world without meat whenever the words were uttered), there was no way she wanted anything to do with the untold horrors of paper work.
"Ah– no thank you."
"Do not resist ares– "
Not waiting for Smoker to finish, Luffy made a break for it. One step, two steps. Luffy let out an 'eep' of surprise as a cloud of white grabbed at her ankles tripping her to the ground. The jutte that had been strapped to his back, pressed against the back of her throat, her body falling limp at its touch.
"A fruit user, eh?" Smoker mused as he pressed his jutte more firmly against her neck.
Smoker went flying as Ace slammed into him. The pair falling to the ground in a mess of thrashing hands and feet as Smoker instinctively reacted to the surprise attack. Not about to let anyone harm Luffy, Ace managed to kick into Smoker's stomach, pushing him away. Rolling onto the balls of his feet, Ace crouched in front of Luffy, flames flicking along his shoulders as he tracked Smoker's movements.
Luffy gripped at her throat as she greedily breathed in the rain tinged air. "Sorry" she muttered hoarsely to Ace.
She hadn't meant to scare him.
Angling his head in acceptance, Ace's eyes didn't leave Smokers own golden ones, the pair locked in a standstill.
Smoker knew he was at a disadvantage now. He didn't know why she hadn't used her powers before or what powers the girl even had, but any kind of devil fruit could be bad news. Even with his jutte and devil fruit, he'd be hard pressed to defeat two devil fruit users. Especially without his back up – which should have arrived by now. He'd just have to keep stalling until they got here.
Conscious that Smoker couldn't be the only marine in the vicinity Ace, shifted his weight across his feet, "Luffy, we need to go."
Rubbing her neck one last time, Luffy pushed to herself up to stand, swiping up her hat that had fallen off when she'd been pinned.
"Okay" she croaked.
"You aren't going anywhere."
A flash of lightning punctuated the end of Smokers statement, as well as the arrival of an unknown party to both sides. Backing up further, Ace kept himself between Luffy and the stranger, not willing to chance that the arrival was to their benefit.
A second flash of lightning revealed a tattooed face beneath the cloaked hood.
Smoker inhaled sharply as he recognised the World Government's number one enemy. Pirates forgotten, Smoker raised his jutte defensively.
Taking Smokers negative reaction as a good thing, Ace ushered Luffy further towards where Gin was hovering, his eyes flickering between the marine and unknown figure.
Just as Ace was about to turn and run, his fingers already threaded through Luffy's to make sure he didn't lose her when they took off, Luffy spoke to the pair Ace had desperately been trying not to draw the attention of.
"Don't kill him." Luffy said softly, her voice barely carrying to the two men, "He's a good person."
Barely waiting for the nod that was given by the unknown man in response, Ace launched into a run, forcing Luffy into a breakneck pace between himself and Gin as the shouts of the marines could finally be heard coming from the opposite direction.
"This is the last time I let you go anywhere by yourself." Ace shouted over the rain.
Grinning at Ace's over-protectiveness, Luffy couldn't help but laugh as he ran his free hand through his hair, as if worried it was falling out.
Thank you again to everyone who has supported SWM! I hope you enjoyed this chapter!