A/N: Well it's been too long, but it's here! At least it's in time for Summer right? I wouldn't know since my place is Summer all year round, and by that I mean it's always too bloody hot. :P Well go knock yourself out, I think the next chapter shouldn't take as long as this one did. Hopefully.
As usual, enjoy! :D
Nami groaned as she pushed herself off the ground, cursing at the confounded fog that caused them to end up in the ditch.
Beside her, Chopper and Usopp were both trying to untangle themselves from each other with limited success.
The navigator looked up, frowning as she realised that the walls were too high to reach and too smooth to climb on.
"What happened?" Usopp asked, finally managing to get Chopper out from under him.
"It seems like the boat hit a concealed outcrop which dumped us into this ditch…" Nami answered, still looking upwards.
"EH? Doesn't that mean we're already on the island then?!" Chopper panicked.
"Well… Seeing as how the ground is filled with skeletons, I would assume so," Nami replied casually.
Usopp and Chopper finally realised what they were standing on, both of them fighting to bite down their own screams of shock.
The navigator sighed as she stretched her arms, finding it ironic that their little group of three were the first to set foot on the island they had vehemently rejected on going.
Nami dusted herself, "Well, I'm sure the others would come for us soon, why don't we find a way out first?"
Usopp scratched his chin, "We'll probably find a way out of this ditch if we go further. If not, I can always send a flare up to let them know we're here."
"Ummm… Guys? We got company…" Chopper informed, changing himself to his human form.
The navigator and sniper turned to look at where Chopper was pointing at, finding a four-legged creature with three heads stalking towards them.
"Cerberus?" Both of them asked aloud at the same time.
"Kon? I guess it's not really Cerberus if one of its heads is a fox huh? So we're not really in hell..." Usopp sighed in relief.
The 'Cerberus' growled threateningly at the mention of its fox head, stopping its advance a slight distance away from the group of three Marines.
Nami fished out a small glass cylinder half the size of her palm from under her shirt, assembling her Clima-Tact with her other hand with a flair.
"I guess this is a good chance as any to test this out," she mused to herself.
The 'Cerberus' lunged towards the navigator without warning, all of its three jaws open and aimed at her.
Nami threw the glass cylinder into the air, the cap bursting open as lightning exploded out from it. Her Clima-Tact was swung in an arc, guiding the lightning along an electrical pathway that the navigator had created moments ago.
The 'Cerberus' only had time to widen its eyes before the lightning bolt struck, frying the monster without mercy.
It howled out in pain, its mind finally registering that the three humans had not shown any ounce of fear when they had seen it, unlike the many others that had came before them.
After what seemed like an eternity to the 'Cerberus', the lightning finally dissipated, leaving it to collapse unconscious on the ground.
Nami bent down to pick up the empty cylinder from the ground, "Well, I must say I'm impressed that Franky managed to actually do it in such a short time."
Usopp stared at the twitching 'Cerberus', "Yeah… Remind me not to borrow money from you anymore…"
"Ummm… Should we find a way out?" Chopper asked. "I think I see stairs leading upwards over there."
"A good start point as any," Nami quipped, depositing the empty cylinder back under her shirt.
The trio began their trek gingerly, the initial fear of the island already dissipating as they slipped into the battle-ready mentality that Vice Admirals Garp and Luffy had drilled into them.
With all the near death experiences they had gone through under the two monstrosities, their minds and bodies had adapted to be incredibly alert when faced with perilous situations.
With thus determined expressions, the three Straw Hats took their first look around them as they ascended from the ditch and onto the island proper.
"The fog's really thick even here…" Usopp noted.
Nami squinted her eyes as she surveyed their surroundings, "I'm not sure if it's a good idea for us to stay around here?"
Chopper shivered slightly, "I think we should at least let the others know where we are."
"With Luffy around, he'll know where we are without us doing anything," Nami quipped back confidently.
Usopp raised an eyebrow, "So what do you suggest we do? Wait here until he comes to us?"
"Oh? Are you waiting for some friends?" A voice called out from behind.
The trio whirled around to see a weird man hanging upside down from a tree nearby, his sunken unblinking eyes staring at them.
They had not noticed him since they were not expecting to find a man hanging upside down on a tree.
Usopp stuck a hand into his pocket, fingers grasping around one of his numerous bullets warily, "Who are you?"
The man leapt off the tree, flipping around in mid air to land on the ground in front of them with a graceful bow.
"You can call me Hildon, if you're waiting for some friends you are welcome to do so in Doctor Hogback's mansion."
Chopper's eyes widened, "Doctor Hogback?! The legendary Doctor Hogback?! The genius surgeon Doctor Hogback?!"
Hildon smirked slightly, "Why yes, the very man himself. If you would like, he's currently residing within the mansion not far from here."
Nami raised an eyebrow, "Isn't this place under Gecko Moria's control?"
Hildon's smirk dropped very slightly, "Yes… Doctor Hogback is currently a guest that is assisting Lord Moria. He is currently researching medical feats that surpasses human intellect."
"It's really him! The genius surgeon that every doctor has looked up to! I wanna meet him!"
Nami frowned, "I think it would be a better idea if we wait for the rest here."
Usopp scratched his chin, "Well… I think waiting indoors is better than outdoors don't you think?"
"Right under a Shichibukai's nose that we know nothing of?" Nami hissed.
Usopp paled, "I… I think we should be ok?"
"No," the navigator declared with a hint of finality. "We wait for the others."
Usopp pursed his lips but nodded to show his agreement. Beside him, Chopper sighed but also agreed to wait, at least for the moment.
Satisfied, Nami turned back to regard Hildon, only to realise the man was already gone.
"Errr... Hildon? Huh... Where did the creepy guy go?" Usopp asked nobody in particular.
As if answering his question, a groan echoed from behind them. Right after that, several low growls were heard accompanying it.
The trio turned slowly, wishing that what they heard was just a figment of their imagination. Unfortunately, fate was not kind to them as they came face to face with a horde of what can only be described as zombies.
There were not only just human zombies, but even zombies in the shape of animals and even some trees seemed to be moving amongst them.
"They don't look so… Friendly…" Chopper pointed out.
"Ok… I think we should run now…" Nami suggested.
"I… Ah… I don't think they'll let us run so easily…" Usopp muttered, realising that another group of zombies had shown up behind them.
Nami cursed under her breath as she assembled her Clima-Tact once more, her other hand holding several glass cylinders between her fingers.
"Usopp! Flare!" The navigator ordered, throwing one of the cylinders at the horde.
Usopp complied immediately, firing off a bullet that lit up the sky in a blaze of red. Immediately, his hands became a blur as he fired off a variety of his special bullets, exploding and cutting through the zombie horde.
At the same time, the glass cylinder Nami threw shattered amongst the horde, the electricity bursting out to electrocute a large group of the zombies.
Before the lightning fully discharged, Nami had swung her staff in an arc around her, quickly forming a white cloud in the air.
With some prompting from a few shock bubbles, the lightning was coaxed into the cloud before the navigator redirected the discharge to another group of zombies, blasting them sky high.
Chopper had already transformed into his larger human size and found himself busy pummeling away at the zombies that tried to pounce on them. Using a combination of Tekkai and his increased strength, the reindeer doctor managed to send most of the human zombies flying away with ease.
For a moment, it seemed like they could hold back the tide.
But as if a dam had broken, the zombies surged forward suddenly, pouncing on top of the three Marines with renewed vigour.
Zombies larger than even Chopper in size quickly overpowered him, forcing the reindeer into his Tekkai to defend himself without a chance to retaliate.
Usopp fared no better when zombie animals pounced on him from his blind spot, quickly ripping his slingshot away from his hands. The sniper dug into his pockets for his caltrops but a lion had leapt at his back, pushing him on to the ground.
"No! Chopper! Usopp!" Nami screamed, twirling her staff to aid them.
Before the staff could complete its arc, a bandaged hand was there to stop it mid-swing, pulling it out of Nami's grasp.
The rest of the zombies immediately closed the gap, trying to restrain the navigator's limbs.
One of them came from her front, both his hands grabbing Nami's wrists with a vice like grip.
Nami growled and immediately slammed her head into the zombie's face, hearing a satisfying crunch as the zombie was flung away.
Another came from behind her, wrapping an arm around her neck in a chokehold.
The navigator's foot immediately shot backwards, hitting it between the legs. When the zombie showed no signs of loosening the chokehold, Nami punched her fist at its right elbow, breaking it with a loud snap.
Gripping the zombie's broken arm, the navigator lifted it over her head before tossing it towards the zombies that were pummeling on Chopper, battering them away like bowling pins.
Chopper sent her a nod of gratitude before leaping towards Usopp's aid.
Her eyes immediately sought for the one who held her staff, finding him hiding behind a trio of zombies and inspecting her staff like a new toy.
Nami furrowed her brow as she charged towards him, the three zombies mirroring her actions.
She slid under one of their legs, pushing herself into the air to somersault over the second before acquainting the third one's face with her knee as she landed back onto the ground.
The zombie was still trying to figure out how the staff worked when Nami's windmill kick landed on top of his head with a crunch.
The Clima-Tact flew out of the zombie's hands and straight into Nami's waiting palm, the navigator giving it a twirl before resting the staff on her shoulder.
"I'm not helpless without a weapon you know?" she smirked.
Usopp and Chopper joined her by her sides, forming a triangle to face against the zombies that surround them.
Before the zombies could decide if they wanted to attack again, a flash of lightning lit up the sky, striking at the ground nearby and blasting away the zombies that had been in the strike zone.
All eyes turned towards where the lightning had struck, the dust cloud clearing to reveal a single Marine standing in the middle of a scorched clearing.
"You're late," Nami grinned.
"Sorry, sorry, had to find a space to anchor the ship," Luffy apologised halfheartedly. "At least everyone is here."
The Vice Admiral snapped his fingers before a whirlwind of green came crashing through the zombie encirclement from the outside.
The green whirlwind expanded into a green tornado, clearing a large swath of zombies away while moving towards the surrounded Marines.
Zoro only stopped his slashes when a path was cleared to his comrades, his unsheathed katanas resting by his side.
Sanji descended from the sky next, kicking the air behind him to propel himself into a group of zombies.
"You dare try and hurt Nami-swaaaaan?!" the chef roared as he spun on a foot. His other foot was parallel to the ground sending wind blades out in a circle around him, cutting the zombies down like harvesting wheat with a scythe.
Franky appeared next, his left hand in its weapons mode and firing away relentlessly, the shipwright laughing maniacally as he did so.
"Get a taste of my suuupeeer cannons! Waahahahaha!"
"Are you alright?" Robin asked, appearing beside Nami out of nowhere.
"Woah! Where did you come from Robin?!" Usopp yelled out in surprise.
Robin just gave him a small smile as an answer.
Luffy stepped up beside them, the rest of his crew joining him to face against the remnants of the zombies.
Cracking his knuckles, the Vice Admiral gave his crew his signature grin, "So… Shall we finish things up here?"
His crew all had similar glints in their eyes when they turned to the zombies.
The zombies wanted to run, but it was already too late.
Luffy dusted his hands as he surveyed the carnage, zombies were scattered everywhere with some hanging off tree branches while others were left half buried in the ground.
Nami walked up to him with a sigh, "So can we leave this place now?"
Luffy tilted his head at her, "Why? We just found some zombies! This island is so interesting!"
Nami rolled her eyes at him, "For now it's just zombies… And I'm already sick of them, so can we leave now, please?"
"Errr… Yeah about that… Our ship's stuck," Luffy laughed sheepishly.
"WHAT?!" Nami screeched.
"There was this web like thing and our ship got caught in it… We could burn it off but it'll take quite a while without damaging the ship, so we decided to save you guys first!"
Nami sighed dejectedly, "So what now? Go back and slowly free the ship?"
"Well… We can spend the night at the awesome looking mansion there!" Luffy grinned, pointing at the spooky looking mansion just ahead.
Nami did not bother hiding the murderous glare she sent her Vice Admiral, who promptly ignored her in favour of preparing to set off for said mansion.
Robin patted her shoulder sympathetically, "Relax Nami, at least we're all together. Besides, I heard it's actually quite cooling to be buried in the ground, though I'm not sure how it would feel if you're a zombie."
"Not helping Robin!" Nami groaned.
Only Usopp and Chopper shared Nami's sentiments in protesting against heading towards the mansion, the rest just followed along Luffy's whims, deciding it was easier that way.
Luffy hummed a tune as he strutted pass the graveyard to the front doors of the mansion, not even sparing a glance at anything else that seemed to creep out the rest of his crew.
Just as the group reached the front steps of the building, the front doors were thrown wide open as though already expecting their arrival.
A rather fat man with thin arms and legs stood at the entrance with his arms spread wide open in welcome. Beside him, a slim girl with short blonde hair stood with her hands clasped demurely in front of her.
"Ah! Our esteemed guests! So glad that all of you could make it!" The portly man cried out, descending the steps to meet them.
The Straw Hats looked at him suspiciously with a raised eyebrow.
The man gave an exaggerated bow as he reached them, "I am Doctor Hogback, at your service! I apologise for the less than acceptable welcome that you all have received!"
Chopper's eyes immediately lit up, "Doctor Hogback?! Is that really you?!"
Hogback's grin grew, "The one and only, doctor Chopper."
"You know me?!" Chopper gasped.
Hogback laughed heartily, "Everyone in the Straw Hat Marines are quite well known in their own way! I can't call myself a doctor if I didn't know about you!"
"Doctor… Hogback… Knows me…" Chopper muttered before promptly fainting.
Usopp managed to catch the reindeer before he hit the ground, throwing his Vice Admiral a questioning glance.
Luffy shrugged before approaching Hogback.
"You were expecting us?" The Vice Admiral asked.
Hogback nodded, "Oh yes! Your ship came through the gate did it not? We thought you might be here on official Marine business so I even sent someone to pick you up!"
Luffy raised an eyebrow at his words but Nami jumped in before he could continue his queries.
"Liar!" Nami roared, pointing an accusing finger at the doctor. "You're talking about that Hildon guy right?! He just left us in the middle of a zombie horde to fend for ourselves!"
Hogback gasped comically, "Why I never! Did he really do that? I knew he was never the bravest one but… Oh dear, you'll have to forgive me, the zombies are what I'm currently studying at the moment you see."
"Studying? You're studying zombies?" Usopp asked, waving smelling salts under Chopper's nose in an attempt to wake him.
"Yes, they're rather fascinating isn't it?" Hogback laughed. "I believe they could be the secret to unlocking what mankind has been seeking so far! To revive the dead! How wonderful would it be if you could see your dead loved ones again? Death would only become a state of being!"
Chopper leapt to his feet, his eyes gleaming, "Oh wow! If this is successful, I believe the world will be full of happy people!"
Nami raised an eyebrow, "I don't know about that… Doesn't this seem a bit… Unethical?"
Hogback tutted at her, "Typical! This is why medical science has been stagnating for years! Everyone talking about ethics and morals and being too afraid to make the leap of faith!"
The doctor swung his arms wide open, "But enough of this! All of you are guests! Please allow me to welcome all of you to my home! I have dinner prepared for you all!"
Robin narrowed her eyes slightly, "Is this not Gecko Moria's home?"
Hogback chuckled, "Yes, indeed! Lord Moria was generous enough to allow me to live here as he had an interest in these zombies too! But enough of talking outside! Cindry-chan? Please show our guests the way in to the dining hall!"
The girl who had remained standing at the doorway moved aside, gesturing towards the interior of the mansion with an expressionless face.
Luffy looked back at his crew, finding their eyes on him as well. The Vice Admiral shrugged before stepping pass Cindry, everyone else following behind. It took an extra while to drag Sanji past Cindry before the chef could express his love for her, however.
They were soon shown to the well-decorated dining hall, all of them ushered to seat around a long rectangular table while Cindry proceeded to the kitchens.
Luffy sat to Hogback's right, Nami, Robin and Zoro occupying the seats right after him. On the other side, Sanji, Usopp, Chopper and Franky also found their own seats.
Robin took her time to look around the room, ignoring Chopper who had already begun questioning Hogback on his medical achievements and theories.
"Hey Robin," Nami whispered from beside her. "You noticed the paintings?"
The archaeologist nodded without turning her head, "Noticed how every person in the pictures seem to be injured in some way? Yes. I'm surprised you took note of that so quickly as well."
Nami hid her smirk behind her hand, "Well, I have to know if they're worth stealing after all."
"Stealing from a Shichibukai? I'm not sure that's a wise choice, Nami."
"Well, if they don't know then it's fine right?" Nami shrugged.
Robin propped up her chin with a palm, "Well then, I have to warn you that we did find someone that could turn themselves invisible back on the ship just now."
The navigator raised an eyebrow, "An invisible man?"
"I'm not really sure if it's a man or not since it kept growling at us, but Luffy managed to sense its presence with his haki at least."
"Well that's troublesome…" Nami frowned, looking around the room once more.
Cindry reentered the room with a bag in hand, dumping part of its contents on the table in front of Hogback.
"Tonight's dinner is soup pasta," Cindry announced without batting an eyelid.
"Wait, wait, wait! Cindry-chan! At least used something to put the food on!" Hogback cried out.
The girl scrunched up her face in distaste "I wish all the plates in the world would just disappear."
"Ummm… Can't you put aside that hatred of plates just for this case Cindry-chan?" Hogback begged. "At least put the food on something else?"
Cindry glared at him, causing the doctor to flinch back in his seat.
Nami watched the girl dump her share of pasta in front of her on the table before turning to their host, "So… Could we get an explanation?"
Hogback chuckled to mask his embarrassment, "Well you see… There was a rich man courting Cindry in the past and she wanted to see how sincere he was… She broke the man's ten treasured plates and the man soon dumped her after that…"
"What?! What kind of man dumps a beautiful girl like Cindry-chan over some plates?!" Sanji yelled out in anger.
"So because of that incident, she despises plates?" Usopp guessed.
"Yes, that is correct, I'm afraid…" Hogback sighed.
Sanji stood up with fire burning in his eyes, "To traumatise such a beautiful girl like Cindry-chan! If I get my hands on him I would-"
"Stop making a scene, you're enough of an embarassment already," Zoro interrupted with a sigh.
The Straw Hat chef slammed his fist onto the table, "Making a scene?! Me?! Any man that hurt dear Cindry-chan deserves to pay for his crimes!"
Most of the Straw Hats just sighed at his proclamation while Luffy slurped his food up from the table without a care.
To her credit, Cindry mostly ignored Sanji's outburst and finished serving everyone, if pouring the food on the table in front of the guests could be referred to as such.
Only Chopper, Usopp and Luffy touched the food, though the first two only did it out of politeness.
"So ahem… Putting that aside… May I ask what you fine Marines might be doing here? I hardly think they would send a Vice Admiral all the way here just for a simple inspection?" Hogback asked, trying to change the subject.
Nami nudged Luffy with an elbow when no answer came from him.
"Hmmm? Oh... We're here to meet with the lazy lizard guy..." the Vice Admiral declared slowly with a burp at the end.
"Oh? Hmmm…" Hogback scratched his chin. "I'm sorry but I do not know anyone that can be called 'the lazy lizard guy'... Perhaps you've come to the wrong place?"
Robin noted the slight change of tone in his voice.
"Who he meant was your host, Gecko Moria," Nami sighed.
"Oh? I see! Well I shall not inquire too much then. For a doctor myself, I try to stay far away from troublesome things like politics you see," Hogback laughed. "Why not stay the night? Lord Moria has already retired to his chambers and I admit even I am not brave enough to incur his wrath for waking him."
Robin raised an eyebrow, "What about our ship? It's currently stuck in some kind of web at your docks."
"Ah… That's one of our defense mechanisms you see. Sometimes pirates would come wandering here and we use traps like that to capture them. Lord Moria still has to fulfill his role as a Shichibukai after all. Fear not, when you have to leave, we will deactivate the trap for you."
"I'm assuming the same reason for the barrel with the flare?" Nami asked skeptically.
Hogback laughed, "Ah yes! That one never gets old! Pirates always pick those up expecting an easy loot! But it's also a way for the Marines to signal us if they wanted to meet with us. So it's useful to both sides!"
Both Nami and Robin narrowed their eyes at him but kept their thoughts to herself.
"Now, I see your friends are already tired from the trip here, I'll have Cindry-chan prepare rooms for your stay here."
Nami was about to ask what he was talking about but the sound of snoring drew her attention. Turning to find the source, she realised Chopper, Usopp and Luffy were already fast asleep.
"Now, Cindry-chan? Would you be so kind as to show our guests to their rooms?" Hogback called out, already leaving the table and his pile of untouched food.
Cindry bowed before turning to the guests, a few of them trying and failing to wake the currently asleep crew members.
"Come on! What kind of moron would randomly fall asleep in the middle of eating like that?" Sanji questioned while shaking Usopp. "Wake up Usopp!"
Nami prodded her Vice Admiral's cheek with a finger, "Luffy's out cold too…" She turned her sights to her untouched pile of food on the table with a frown, a suspicion already forming in her head.
"If you would follow me, I have your rooms already prepared," Cindry ignored their actions and gestured towards the door with an emotionless face.
The Straw Hats all shared a look, all of them nodding before picking up their asleep crew mates to follow after the girl.
None of them were stupid, it was clear something was going on within this mansion and they were most likely walking straight into a trap. But with so little information they have on hand and their own commander being knocked out, they would rather stay indoors than out with the zombies for the moment.
Better the devil you know after all, or at least in this case, the devil that is supposed to be on your side.
Cindry led them through a few winding corridors through the mansion, all of them occupied with various paintings and taxidermies mounted on the walls.
The short walk led them through a set of double doors into the guest wing of the mansion where five guest rooms were already prepared for the Straw Hats.
Cindry gestured to the doors, "We were unsure of how you might want your sleeping arrangements made, so we have prepared all the guest rooms for use. The one furthest from us is for Vice Admiral Luffy while you are free to do with the other four as you like."
Without waiting for a response, Cindry gave a curt bow before leaving the room.
"Ok… Is it just me or am I not the only one getting suuupeeer bad feelings about this?" Franky asked, ignoring the snoring Chopper who was carried like a sack of potatoes under his arm.
"Trust me, you're not alone on that," Sanji grunted, adjusting Usopp who he had slung his arm over his shoulder.
"I think we should stay up tonight, and have a few people keep watch," Nami suggested, eyeing the paintings that hung on the walls.
"All in one room then? I can take first watch," Zoro offered, dragging Luffy behind him towards the room that was meant for the Vice Admiral.
Nami turned to their archaeologist, "Robin, could you-"
Robin quickly silenced the navigator with a finger to her lips, "Careful Nami… We know nothing yet, the walls might have ears… Maybe even eyes."
Nami nodded quickly before following after Zoro, the rest trailing after her.
The room itself was simple in design but spacious enough that the entire crew could crash comfortably in it. There was an attached bathroom and a sitting area with couches and a coffee table under the only window in the room, though the only thing that could be seen outside was a husk of a long dead tree.
The room had only one bed which was thankfully king size so they unceremoniously dumped the sleeping crew members on top of it.
Usopp managed to roll off the bed and onto the floor almost immediately but remained asleep with his face on the floor and butt in the air. Everyone decided to leave him as he is.
Sanji sat down while leaning against the doorframe, an unlit cigarette in his mouth, "So… I assume we have a plan for this? Our ship is stuck, our hosts are less than sincere and Luffy's out of it too."
Zoro unclasped a sword, "I say we just cut them down until they start talking."
Nami smacked him on the head, "Don't you dare cause trouble unnecessarily! If you already forgot, we still have that afro skeleton to worry about!"
"Speaking of which… Where is he? For someone who was suuupeeer determined to get his shadow back, we still haven't seen or heard anything about him yet?" Franky remarked.
"Perhaps… Cerberus ate him?" Robin suggested. "Maybe he was kept as his chew toy?"
Nami made a face at her, "Please Robin… Don't put weird images in my head."
"Still, we have to be prepared." Sanji huffed, lighting his cigarette to inhale a breath. "Even if we're on a Shichibukai's turf, I don't believe for a second that they aren't planning something against us."
"So we cut them down," Zoro grinned.
Nami smacked him harder on the head this time.
Franky sat himself down on the couch with his feet propped on the table, "I'm still new to this Marine business so I don't know how close you guys are to this so called Shichibukai… But I can say that I would rather be back on the ship than right here at the moment."
"You'd rather go through the zombies again?" Nami asked with a raised eyebrow.
Franky grimaced as he popped open a cola he had kept refrigerated in his body, "Nah… But this place is giving me suuupeeer bad vibes… Totally the opposite of when I was feeling absolutely suuupeeer last week!"
Nami shivered slightly, remembering the paintings and taxidermies on the walls. For some reason she could not explain, she had the odd feeling that they were being constantly watched by said inanimate objects.
"You think we should at least try to wake them?"Sanji jerked his chin towards the bed.
"I agree… The air is… Rather dry here," Nami nodded to Zoro.
"I'll get some water," the swordsman grunted, disappearing inside the bathroom.
"In the meantime," the Straw Hat navigator sighed. "Robin, could you tell us what we should know about this Gecko Moria? As usual, we're all stuck with something I would rather not be involved in…"
Robin rested her chin on a hand, her mind recalling the classified Marine documents that Luffy had gathered for her to read back at Marineford in secret.
"Hmmm… Not much is really known about him, he's not one to show his face in public after his appointment as a Shichibukai. His bounty used to be three hundred and twenty million berries but his personal combat abilities were never logged since he mostly relies on his subordinates to do his work for him."
Franky raised an eyebrow, "Huh? So this guy might actually be quite weak?"
"I doubt someone weak could actually be worth over three hundred million berries so easily," Sanji scoffed.
Robin nodded, "Even though not much is known about his own skills, it was advised in the records that should he ever turn hostile, the Marines would need to mobilise multiple assault groups just to subdue him."
The newest member of the Straw Hats frowned, "Wait… You're telling me that the Marines have plans in place to get rid of each individual Shichibukai should they turn rogue? That's like… Suuupeeer not cool."
Nami shrugged, "They are, at the end of the day, still pirates after all. I'd sooner toss my gold into the sea than trust a pirate to watch my back."
"I don't suppose there's something about Mihawk in there?" Zoro asked, returning from the bathroom with a bucket of water.
Sanji narrowed his visible eye, "Why? So you can take advantage of his weakness and beat him with it?"
Zoro scoffed, "No. It's so I can avoid using it and beat him fair and square. There's no meaning if I beat him using underhanded methods."
Robin gave him a small smile, "Well then, you would be happy to hear that the Marines admitted they did not have any swordsmen that could match blades with him at the moment. So they have no plans in place that involve a swordsman beating him in a sword fight."
"Good," Zoro smirked as he dumped the bucket of water on Usopp.
Everyone expected said sharpshooter to awaken immediately, but the only thing Usopp did was spit out the water that got in his mouth before promptly going back to snoring again.
Zoro frowned as he prodded the comatose sniper's butt with a sheathe, "he's still out cold…"
Robin placed a hand on Luffy's wrist, her other hand opening his eyelid slightly.
"Flunitrazepam," the archaeologist announced after a minute. "And a rather sizeable dose as well."
"Fluni-what?" Franky asked.
Robin frowned, "It's a knock-out drug… I've used it in my… Previous profession before. They won't be waking up for a while with how much they were given…"
"That damn doctor…" Zoro cursed, already knowing who the culprit was.
Nami fished out Lufy's den den mushi from within his cloak, "I'm going to call Headquarters, no need for us to be alone on this. Especially when their objectives are so painfully obvious."
"A-a-a-a-a… I can't have you do that," a voice spoke out from above them.
Zoro smirked at Nami as he unsheathed a blade, not even looking up at the voice "I told you we should just cut them down."
Nami stuck out her tongue, "Well, I was hoping they might reveal some information we don't know about."
Franky was the only one who was surprised by the voice, gaping up at the ceiling to see a giant spider staring down at them.
Instead of a spider's head, a monkey's face replaced it and its two front legs ended in monkey paws while a distinct monkey tail sprouted from its rear end.
"What the hell is that thing?!" The mechanic screamed, more from surprise than fear.
The spider felt concerned at the initial reactions from Zoro and Nami but managed to regain his confidence after Franky's outburst.
"Monkey! Monkeeyyy! All of you have fallen into our trap! We will capture you here now!"
Sanji dusted his pants as he stood up from the ground, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch. You got three of us with the food, but there's still five of us left."
"A-a-a-a-a! Monkeeeeyyy! That is enough for me to take you down! I am Tararan of the General Zombies! Be captured by meeeee!"
The spider zombie dropped from the ceiling and landed in the middle of the Straw Hats, a confident grin on his face. Lifting his hands, several lines of webs shot out from his wrists, targeting the Marine swordsman that was in front of him.
Zoro tried to cut the strings with his sword, only to find his blade stuck fast to the sticky threads without making a dent.
"A-a-a-a-a! My threads can't be cut by a blade! I got you no-"
Zoro moved forward with a burst of speed and hammered Tararan's face with his sword's hilt, stunning the giant spider.
Sanji was next to move as he slid below Tararan, kicking both his feet up into the spider's abdomen and sending him crashing back into the ceiling.
Robin crossed her arms and copies of her hands appeared on the spider's back,restraining all of his eight limbs in the process.
Franky grinned as his wrist slid to the side, his in built cannon firing off several shots that exploded in Tararan's face in a shower of sparks.
Just as the giant spider began falling again, Nami had already used the water Zoro had poured out earlier to condense into a cloud that hung directly below Tararan's path of descent. With a deft flick of her wrist, a glass cylinder containing Luffy's stored lightning was tossed into the cloud, instantly turning it into an ominous black colour.
Tararan did not even have the chance to scream before the lightning shocked him into unconsciousness, crashing back into the floor with a loud bang.
"Heh, for all his words he ain't much after all!" Franky chuckled.
"We're not done yet…" Zoro cautioned, unsheathing the rest of his katanas and facing the door.
A girl with pink hair tied into twin pigtails came floating through the door, a parasol held in her hand as though she was out for a stroll.
"There's a cute giiiirrrll!" Sanji sang while pirouetting on the spot.
Nami frowned, "Did she just float through the door?"
The girl clucked her tongue upon seeing the unconscious form of Tararan, turning her gaze towards the gathered Marines, "Hmph! So much for it being easy! I guess I still have to do this myself!"
Zoro pointed a blade at her, "You do know you're currently attacking a Marine unit right now? Don't expect any of us to go easy on you."
"Horo-horo-horo! You're not the first Marines to fall into our trap! Now let's get this over with so I can go back to playing with Kumashi! Horo-horo-horo!"
Zoro stamped the ground quickly as he blurred in front of her, slashing his sword towards her midsection with the back of his blade.
Instead of the impact he was expecting, his blade phased through her without incident, the girl just laughing all the while.
Franky fired on her with his wrist cannon, which did nothing but blow up the door behind her.
Nami was next to launch a lightning bolt at her but it yielded the same result, destroying the entire door frame behind the girl instead.
Robin frowned as she realised she could not sprout any arms on the girl's body, unsure of why she could not get a lock on the girl with her powers.
Sanji was still busy doing his noodle dance.
"Too bad! All your attacks won't work on me! Gobai no Negative Kogeki!"
The girl flushes her arms outwards, sending five ghostly figures crashing straight into the conscious Straw Hats.
Zoro cursed as he felt extremely negative thoughts fill his head, no doubt the others were experiencing the same thing as well.
The swordsman gritted his teeth as he tried to overcome the thoughts with willpower but he still felt himself brought to his knees, panting from the exertion before something hard hit him at the back of his head, knocking him out cold.
Luffy came to awareness slowly, his body remaining still and his breathing shallow. It was not his first time being drugged into unconsciousness and he remembered the training he had to undergo in case of such a situation.
There were times he had to infiltrate bases by being drugged back in CP9 after all.
Now with his new Devil Fruit ability, he could enhance his senses way past the usual levels.
Taking another breath before exhaling slowly, he reached out to the surroundings with his Observation haki.
Within his mind, he felt the electrical pulses that radiate out from his location, bouncing around objects like a sonar and painting a landscape for him to see.
He was in a cell of sorts, two Sea Stone cuffs chained his wrists to a wall and leaving him suspended slightly in the air.
Luffy took in another breath, the pulse travelling further through the bars of his cell.
It seemed like there were more cells neighbouring his but he was the only occupant in the dungeon at the moment.
Keeping his senses tuned, he checked his bodily functions next.
There was no weight on his ankles which meant only his hands were restrained, his mind was already rather clear which meant whatever drug they had given him was already on its way out of his system.
His eyes shot open, visually confirming what his haki had already told him.
Luffy mentally berated himself for letting himself be drugged, he had an inkling that something was suspicious from the start but the pasta just tasted too good to pass up, even if it was laced to the brim with knock-out drugs. Then again, this was not the first time something like this happened anyway and he thought his crew mates could deal with whatever happened.
Shaking his wrists, he noted the shackles were of the weaker Sea Stone kind, the ones that were meant to restrain and not immobilise their captive. This either meant they had underestimated him or the news about his Devil Fruit ability have yet to travel far.
But that brought about the question of why had they decided to keep him here? Did they need something from him? Did he do something to them in the past and they had something personal against him?
He looked down at his feet, visually confirming that his shadow was still firmly attached to him. So they did not take his shadow like what they did to Brook, why else would they still keep him here then?
Not willing to risk anything to chance now especially since his crew were nowhere in sight, the Vice Admiral planted both his feet against the wall behind him.
With a slight grunt, he kicked himself off the wall, breaking the shackles apart with brute strength alone.
Without the Sea Stone weakening him, Luffy concentrated his Observation haki to its maximum, his awareness easily covering the entire island with little effort.
He found his crew mates easily enough, somehow most of them seemed to be safely stowed away back on their ship while three of them seemed to be scattered around the island. However, he did realise there were a few new presences moving around on the island compared to when they first arrived here.
The Vice Admiral inspected the wall of his cell, which were unfortunately made of non-conductive brick and mortar.
"Guess I'll take the long way…" Luffy said to himself, deforming and reforming himself outside his cell in a flash of sparks.
The lightning logia strolled down the corridor, slowly making his way towards an open courtyard which lay at the end of the path.
He had half expected to be stopped at some point but his route was bereft of guards of any kind. Had they expected him to still be unconscious at this point?
Luffy decided it did not matter as he flashed into the sky, using the clouds as a conductor before he flashed back down on to his ship.
The deck of the ship was deathly quiet, not even the sound of the wind could be heard blowing.
The frown on Luffy's face deepened when he saw the mess that was left around the ship. Clearly quite a large number of intruders had stepped foot on their ship since he was unconscious. Broken barrels and crates were littered across the deck and several food items were left splattered around the place, no doubt the ship had already been looted thoroughly.
The Vice Admiral made a mental note of what he wanted to do to the perpetrators before stepping into the kitchen. Within said room, Franky, Usopp, Sanji and Chopper were seated on the chairs around the dining table with various drawings on their faces, all of them fast asleep.
The Vice Admiral waved his hand in front of Sanji to make sure he was unconscious before grabbing a piece of dried meat from the pantry, chewing it slowly as he paced in front of his crew mates while thinking.
He began trying to shake Sanji awake but the chef remained unconscious no matter how hard he shook him. Luffy then flicked Usopp hard on the forehead, which gave no results other than sending the sniper sprawling backwards on the floor.
Searching through Usopp's pockets, Luffy grabbed a fistful of smelling salts that he waved under Chopper's nose, but even then the reindeer continued to snore away.
The Vice Admiral turned to Franky, poking his metal nose to see if it would restart the cyborg which unfortunately did not to his disappointment.
Luffy took a step back as he furrowed his brows, finally realising that the four crew mates in front of him were shadowless.
The Vice Admiral clucked his tongue as he rubbed his hands together, creating a burst of static between his palms before pressing them on to Sanji's back.
There was a startled yelp as the chef shot off from the chair, rolling across the room to escape from the surprise electrocution. He quickly got himself up in a crouch, eyes darting around and body tensed and ready for anything.
He quickly realised he was back on their ship with Luffy standing a distance away while his hands still cackled with pulses of electricity.
"What the hell?! What was that for?!" Sanji cried out indignantly.
"Oh? That works? I was going to try stuffing something somewhere next but... Oh well…" Luffy sighed, sounding a little disappointed.
Sanji took notice of the other three Straw Hats who were asleep within the room, the Vice Admiral already moving to wake his sniper next. Memories of the past few hours came back to him once he saw the missing shadows at his friends' feet.
"Shit… So that wasn't a dream huh? Our shadows really got taken…" Sanji cursed as he looked at his shadowless feet.
Luffy squatted beside the comatose Usopp, lowering the voltage of the shock before placing his palms against his chest.
Usoipp gave a gasp of shock before scrambling away from the Vice Admiral, his arms raised defensively in front of him.
"Ahhhh! Don't hurt me! I don't know anything! I don't know any Marine secrets! Don't torture me!"
Luffy ignored his cries as he moved on to the last two members, lowering the voltage even more for the doctor while not holding back on Franky at all.
It took some time to calm the three of them down and stop screaming incoherently.
"So what happened?" Luffy asked, wiping his smoking hands on his pants.
"Yeah, last I remembered we were having dinner with Doctor Hogback?" Chopper asked, still confused.
"You three were drugged," Sanji sighed, leaning heavily against the counter. He had did a check on the ship's stores while the other three were still adjusting their bearings. Everything of value had been taken, even their store of fresh food.
The generator room was thankfully untouched since it was locked behind a door of solid steel but the leftover gold from Skypiea which they had left in the hold was gone.
"It was a shitty trap, which we all knew but walked into anyway."
"And after you guys passed out, they let us stay in that mansion of theirs but some big ass giant spider attacked us!" Franky growled.
"Giant Spider?!" Usopp and Chopper cried out in fear, hugging each other.
"Well the spider wasn't the problem…" Sanji sighed while scratching his head. "The ghost girl was."
"G-g-g-g-ghost?!" The duo screamed louder.
"Eh… She wasn't really a ghost. More like she could control ghost or sumthin', she was suuupeeer creepy! When the ghosts went through me, I felt like I was living the worst week of my life!"
"What happened after that?" Luffy urged.
"They knocked us out, then brought us to this really big guy with some giant scissors and he cut our shadows right from under us! They took the long nosed first and put it in some dead body, and right after that it started moving! He took the doctor's then mine and I don't know what happened after that… All the zombies we fought were created by them from the start!" Franky slammed the table with his fist in frustration.
Luffy looked at his own shadow, "Why didn't they take mine though?"
The scrapper shrugged, "I dunno, they were saying something about preparing the biggest reveal or some other thing. I think they expected you to still be out of it now. How did you wake up so fast anyway?"
It was Luffy's turn to shrug, he had no idea how long he was unconscious after all.
"W-w-w-what about Zoro, Nami a-a-a-and Robin? D-d-did they become g-g-g-ghosts?" Chopper asked while his teeth were still chattering.
Sanji clucked his tongue, "No… They were preparing another body for the shitty swordsman… But the girls…"
The chef went silent while looking down.
Before the four could question his silence, the blonde chef suddenly burst into flames as he yelled out at the top of his lungs.
"THAT INVISIBLE BASTARD! HE SAID HE'LL TAKE BOTH OF THEM AS HIS WIVES! UNFORGIVABLE! I'M GOING TO KICK HIM ALL THE WAY BACK TO NORTH BLUE! ARRRRGGGHHHH!"
Meanwhile, in an opulent room somewhere in the island.
The Shichibukai, Gecko Moria, sipped away at a glass of wine while reclining in his sofa. He had already given the orders to have number nine hundred prepared and ready. No doubt after he cuts the Vice Admiral's shadow from under his feet, that zombie will be the strongest zombie he had ever created.
In the meantime, he wondered how the transfusion of the famed Marine swordsman's shadow was going.
Without warning, a zombie with tons of stitches around his body burst into the room in a panic, "Lord Moria! Big trouble! That Vice Admiral has escaped!"
Moria frowned, "We put enough drugs in there to knock him out for half a day… How did he wake up so fast? It's barely been two hours."
"We… We don't know! When we went to check on him just now he was already gone! We didn't arrange a guard since we expected him to stay asleep!"
The Shichibukai sighed dramatically, "Oh well… As long as the other shadows are here, I still have a plan to get his. Get the Mysterious Three here, we will unveil the special zombie another way."
The zombie rushed out immediately to carry out his orders.
"Kishishishishi! Soon the strongest zombie will be in my hands! Then no one can stop me! I will be Pirate King!"