A/N: I know, I know. I jinxed myself with my damn big mouth which led to a series of unfortunate events that delayed my writing. I'm still not going to give up on writing this though.
Had to rewrite this part a lot of times until I was finally happy with it :P
As usual, enjoy! :D
"Ok… Let's go over this again," Usopp sighed, scribbling away into his notepad. "Our main objectives are to get our crew back, then our shadows and get the hell out of here."
"Hey! What happened to kicking their asses?" Luffy protested.
"Why are we even fighting a Shichibukai?!" Usopp screamed. "Just report his wrong doings to headquarters and be done with it! Do you know how scary Shichibukais are to us?!"
"Hey! Jinbei, Mihawk and Hancock aren't scary!"
Usopp wrung his hands in the air, "To you! But they're completely terrifying to us normal people you know?!"
Sanji whacked the sniper at the back of the head, "Hancock chwan is not scary! She's a delicate flower!"
"The delicate flower that kicked you to hell and back…" Usopp mumbled to himself.
"Well then!" Luffy clapped his hands together. "The real plan is we bust in, get our crew back, kick their asses, get your shadows back, then kick their asses again!"
His audience quickly waved their hands in denial, "No, no, no, no."
Sanji pointed a thumb at himself, "I go rescue our dear damsels in distress as their gallant knight, then you kick the Shichibukai's ass while the rest of you find a way to get our shadows back. Capiche?"
"You're just having us do grunt work! I want to let loose too you know?!" Franky yelled in protest.
"You forgot about Zoro too!" Chopper joined in.
"You know… Luffy can just flash himself to where they are and get them back instantly right?" Usopp pointed out.
"And spoil my once in a lifetime debut as a knight in shining armour?! Hell no! I'm going to be the one to rescue the girls and kick that invisible bastard's ass!"
Franky raised an eyebrow, "Why do you even hate that guy so much man? And it's obviously not just because he said he wanted to marry those two."
"That shitty bastard… He dared defile my dream! There's no way I'll forgive him!"
"I thought your dream was finding All Blue?" Chopper inquired with a tilt of his head.
"It's another one of my dreams!" The chef roared out with fire ablaze in his eyes.
Luffy sighed, "Fine… You can go get the girls but promise to beat up that invisible guy extra hard!"
"Oh you don't have to tell me to do that! I'll do it anyway!" Sanji roared as he pumped his fists into the air. "Wait for me! Your prince is coming!"
And with a warcry, Sanji leapt off the ship and sprinted back towards the castle.
"Wait! Sanji! Do you eve-aaaand he's gone…" Usopp slumped against the railing dejectedly. "Great! We won't even know if he'll find them!"
Luffy picked his nose with a finger, "Eh… Should I just destroy the entire island?"
"Don't say such scary things with a straight face," the sniper whined.
The Vice Admiral flicked the booger off his finger, "I guess I can go find Zoro, then you three can find out how to get your shadows back. The skeleton guy might know something since he's been here before."
"Oh that's right! That walking skeleton!" Franky scratched his chin. "Where is he?"
"In the kitchens, and it feels like the zombies around him are decreasing in number quite rapidly… Hmmm… He's feeding them something… No idea what that is though… There's quite a lot of zombies that he's fighting with so you guys can go help him out."
Franky widened his eyes, "I didn't know you could even see what other people are doing…"
"Shishishi! I can't really see them, I can just sort of feel what they are doing."
"Ok… Sounds like a good place to start as any." Usopp nodded to himself. "Are we still reporting to Headquarters about this?"
Luffy gave him a thumbs up, "Already did! They're sending someone over already!"
Chopper breathed a sigh of relief, "At least we don't have to worry about backup."
"Alright, we'll find out what we can from that creepy skeleton while busting some heads in, then we'll find you guys. Let's get crackin'!" Franky grinned, cracking his knuckles.
Luffy found his swordsman in the midst of being transported back to their ship within a small courtyard.
A pair of squirrels had been transporting the comatose swordsman in a coffin when the Vice Admiral literally descended upon them, having followed Zoro's Voice.
A quick glare from Luffy was enough to send the two animals into blissful unconsciousness, spilling the contents of the coffin on to the floor.
Luffy noted that Zoro only had one sword attached to his hip and no shadow connected to him.
"Hmmm… Ramen Ichimonji? No, that can't be right, whatever," Luffy muttered to himself while rubbing his palms once again.
He used the same voltage as Sanji's to wake the swordsman up, Zoro rolling away almost immediately into a crouch with his hand resting on his katana handle.
The swordsman immediately felt something was off as he looked down at his hip.
"My swords…" He growled through gritted teeth.
"They probably took them off you for the zombie they stuck your shadow in," Luffy guessed.
Zoro got to his feet, "What's the plan then? Kick their asses?"
Luffy gave him a toothy smile.
The swordsman rolled his eyes, "Fine… Not like I can come up with anything else right now anyway. But where do we start?"
Luffy glanced at his remaining sword, "I suppose you'll want your swords back first?"
"And I don't suppose you can 'hear' my shadow too?"
The Vice Admiral shrugged, "There's a zombie that's currently moving the opposite direction of where he was told to go. Either he's being rebellious or he's your shadow."
Zoro raised an eyebrow, "What does him going the opposite direction have to do with me?"
"Just a feeling," he waved his hand nonchalantly.
Zoro narrowed his eyes at his Vice Admiral but decided not to push that particular topic, "and the others?"
"Sanji's going to pick up Robin and Nami. Usopp, Franky and Chopper is meeting up with the skeleton guy."
"The skele- Riiight… I almost forgot about him. And why do we need him?"
"The zombies' Voices are disappearing really fast when he's there. He's making them eat something."
Zoro made a face, "Ok fine. What else we got?"
The Vice Admiral dug his ear with a finger, "Probably kick that lizard guy's ass or something, since he's behind all this most likely. I already told Headquarters about him taking Marine shadows so they're sending someone over."
"Any reason why you're not beating this lizard guy right now?"
Luffy flicked the dirt off his finger, "I heard him saying something about a 'strongest zombie' and making himself pirate king."
Zoro raised an eyebrow, "So he's intending to go against the Government?"
"I guess so, but no hard proof yet. If I beat him up before he shows his intentions, we can only punish him for stealing Marine shadows which isn't much. I want there to be a really good reason where I can beat him up, toss him off the Shichibukai, then beat him up again when I feel like it."
Zoro grunted in acknowledgement, "Then I should get my swords back first, where's my zombie?"
"Coincidence or not… The skeleton guy and your zombie will be meeting each other soon if they continue their route."
Zoro grimaced, "Well I guess we better hurry then, lead the way."
Nami hummed to herself as she deftly inserted the hairpin into her handcuff's keyhole, wriggling it about to find the lock mechanisms.
"The guards will reach the end soon, I'll have to start the next phase in thirty seconds," Robin whispered from behind her, the archaeologist's eyes closed in concentration.
The two women were held within a small guest room that was behind a chapel of sorts, guarded by a few zombies wearing what looked like knights' armour. They had them restraint with handcuffs and rope tying the upper half of their bodies together back to back.
It seemed they knew how dangerous Nami was with her Clima-Tact so they had taken that away the moment she was captured, but Robin seemed to be news to them since they did not bother using Sea Stone cuffs on her.
It was an easy thing for Robin to use her powers to cause a commotion outside the room, prompting all but one guard to leave the room to investigate. Even then, the lone guard seemed more interested in what was going on outside rather than the two girls in the corner of the room.
"Twenty seconds," Robin counted down, pulling slightly at her own cuffs that were behind her back in worry.
"Trust me Robin, I'm not the best thief around for nothing," Nami smiled reassuringly, twisting the hairpin with a barely audible click to unlock the cuffs.
The navigator immediately got to work on the archaeologist's restraints behind her, unlocking them in half the time she took for herself.
"The rope?" Nami whispered, her mouth barely moving.
"I already changed it to a slip knot, just pull the end near your right hand and it'll come undone."
The navigator fumbled around with her right hand until she found the rope Robin had mentioned.
"Got it, what about my things?"
"Turn right once you're out, second door down the corridor. You'll find a weapons storage room and they're locked behind the only metal cabinet. It's locked so you'll have to break it open."
"The invisible creep?"
The archaeologist took a moment to adjust her concentration to another eye, "Alone with the priest in the chapel… Gloating to him about our… Wedding."
Nami made a disgusted face, "Yuck. I hope our real wedding in the future won't be on a creepy island like this."
Robin gave a wry smile, "I'll be sure to tell the involved parties of that request."
The archaeologist waited a moment more, the eye she planted on one of the guards outside finally had a clear sight of the adjoining corridors at the intersection. Picking the corridor furthest from them, she materialised a pair of lips that immediately sent out a blood curdling scream.
The zombie in the room flinched.
Nami pulled at the rope and made a dash for the door.
Robin stood with her arms crossed, materialising six arms on the zombie's body.
"Seis Fleur Clutch!"
Nami was out of the room before the 'crack' sound of Robin breaking the zombie's back could be heard.
Counting to the second door, she tried the handle only to find it locked. The navigator grimaced as she took a step back before bracing her shoulder, she did not have time to pick the lock. Nami rammed herself against the door once, twice, three times before it finally gave way.
She ignored all the other weapons and found the metal cabinet Robin had told her about, making a beeline towards it.
Grabbing a warhammer that was lying against a rack, she brought it down on the cabinet door with a loud crash, denting the metal inwards.
Knowing that the sound would have probably alerted the guards that were away, she wasted no time in prying the metal door off its broken hinges, picking up her Clima-Tact, her standard issue Marine equipment and the rest of what she had come to refer to as her 'lightning cells'.
The navigator turned around just as Robin appeared at the doorway, "They're coming."
"Well, let's get going then!"
Nami bolted out the room with Robin hot on her heels, both of them running in the opposite direction of where Robin had placed her diversion.
Behind them, the distinct sound of metal scraping against metal could be heard, evident the other zombie guards were aware of their escape.
"We need to slow them… That is if you still intend on getting back on that invisible guy," Robin cautioned.
Nami let out an uncharacteristic growl, "That slimy prick dared to touch me without even paying. He owes me at least a billion berries."
"Only a billion?" Robin smirked.
"That's probably how much I can get from him before he gets wiped out of existence," the navigator stuck out her tongue.
The two girls let out a chuckle despite their current predicament.
Nami pulled out two of her lightning cells with one hand while holding her Clima-Tact in her other, "I'm going to need Luffy to restock after this..."
Bubbles floated out of her Clima-Tact as the two continued to run, the navigator expertly mixing the bubbles together to form what she needed.
At first, a layer of fog began forming on their trail, which slowly escalated into a rain cloud that hung just a little above chest height.
With a backward toss of her hand, the two lightning cells cracked open to discharge its contents into the cloud, creating a wall of lightning in the corridor behind the two women.
"There, that should slow them down," Nami grinned triumphantly.
"I sure hope so… I'm looking to break a few fingers off that slimeball myself..." Robin mused.
Spotting the door to the chapel ahead, the two girls burst through the door with their senses on high alert.
To say that the two occupants inside of said chapel was surprised at their entry would be an understatement.
The 'groom', Absalom, watched with open mouthed shock as Nami barreled towards him, staff in hand. Arms had sprouted behind his back and on the ground to restrain him, twisting his limbs in such a way that he was forced to bend backwards with a loud crack.
The navigator held no remorse as she swung her staff as hard as she could at his jaw, the satisfying crunch of the impact reverberating throughout the chapel. Robin dematerialised her limbs to let the man sail through the air, crashing in a heap at the other side of the room.
The priest zombie that had stood beside Absalom could only gape in shock, his mind failing to comprehend the sight of a woman sending a three hundred kilogram body sailing through the air with her arm strength alone.
Apparently not satisfied, the former thief chucked a lightning cell towards him without mercy, the resulting discharge of electricity bathing the entire chapel in its bluish hue.
The priest finally shook himself out of his stupor after the lightning dissipated.
"Absalom sama!" The priest screeched, sprinting over to check on his condition.
The animal hybrid was lying still in the debris, his eyes and mouth wide open in apparent shock.
"Absalom… sama?" the priest prodded him with a finger, confused.
"That… Shock… Was that… Love?" Absalom gasped.
Both Robin and Nami scrunched up their faces in disgust.
Absalom leapt to his feet, staring straight at the two women in the room with hearts for eyes.
"I knew I was right! It's definitely love at first sight! I must, by all means, take both of you as my brides!"
Robin narrowed her eyes at him, "I wonder what will happen if I undo the stitches on his face?"
"I hope his face falls off," Nami muttered, not put off by Robin's morbid statements for the first time.
"Come, my ladies!" Absalom spread his arms wide open as if to embrace them. "Surely you have arrived here in such a rush to proceed on with our union? Let's get the ceremony started!"
Nami turned to Robin with a grimace, "I've got four of the lightning cells left."
The archaeologist crossed her arms in front of her, "Shame, we'll just make do."
Absalom was genuinely confused when the two girls took up a combat stance again, the one with the orange hair moving to guard her companion's front with her staff.
He had an interest in the black haired one when he was infiltrating the ship, but the damn Vice Admiral had caught him before he even managed to get a taste of her. That mattered little now for he was adamant he would marry both her and the orange haired girl that stole his heart the moment he laid eyes on them.
"Now, now," Absalom waved his hands placatingly. "I may like feisty girls, but I actually prefer my brides to be demure and ladylike you know? So you can drop the act already."
"Then you know nothing about us," Robin stated simply, her eyes narrowing.
Absalom sighed dramatically before his figure vanished from where he stood, disappearing from their sight entirely.
Nami gave an uncharacteristic grunt of annoyance as she took a step back, feeling the comfortable weight of Robin's back on hers.
"Ideas?" Robin whispered, her eyes scanning the room.
"Short of blasting this entire place to pieces?" Nami smirked, breaking apart her Clima-Tact into its individual pieces.
"Tempting, but no. I wouldn't want the ceiling to come down on us here."
"Hmmm… True," Nami agreed before turning her attention back to finding the invisible man. "Hey creep! Would it be too much to ask for you to just leave us alone?!"
There was a soft intake of breath from the navigator's left. Without missing a beat, Nami swung her heat rod towards the sound, the rod slamming hard into Absalom's muzzle.
Immediately, Nami swung the cold rod in the direction she guessed the invisible man stumbled to, a layer of fog forming around the area the bubbles had mixed.
There was a cluck of the tongue before the fog seemed to be pushed aside by something, thin white tendrils clinging onto something invisible that was moving through it.
A hand sprouted from the ground to grab at the invisible foot, tripping Absalom to fall on to the ground with a crash.
Nami jammed the end of her lightning rod at the small cloud of dust, finding her target in Absalom's back.
The invisible man gave a startled yelp at the impact alongside the electric shock that hit his back.
The Marine navigator pulled out a pair of Sea Stone cuffs from under her blouse, trying to search for the invisible wrists that the cuffs would snap on to.
Realising what the Marine was going to do, Absalom struggled to get the navigator off his back, only for more hands to appear all around him to hold him down.
The man growled louder, exerting more strength as he slowly got on a knee.
"Nami, on your left," Robin called out, using several hands to hold on to what she assumed to be an invisible limb.
Nami clapped the handcuff in what appeared to be thin air, causing Absalom to reappear almost instantaneously.
"No! Damn it!" Absalon cursed, feeling his energy slipping away.
Desperately, he lifted his only free arm as high as he could, the previously invisible bazookas that were strapped under his arms now clearly visible for all to see.
Clenching his arm muscles, the weapon fired off a rocket that exploded at a nearby pillar, causing the debris to fall towards him and Nami.
Nami cursed as she rolled away from the impact zone, the pillar crashing down on top of Absalom and breaking into pieces.
"Did he choose to kill himself?" Nami wondered aloud.
Robin shook her head even as the dust started to settle, pointing towards the shadow that slowly pushed itself up from the debris.
"Urgh… Luckily this body is still strong on its own…" Absalom muttered, silently thanking Hogback within his head.
Nami frowned, the pirate in front of her should have been weakened by the Sea Stone but yet he was able to shrug off the impact of a heavy stone pillar. Zombie or not, that was not normal. The two Marines resolved themselves for another fight.
Before anything else could happen, the grand doors to the chapel were blasted open violently, the wooden doors disintegrating into splinters from the force.
A giant pink warthog wielding two swords stepped into the chapel, rage evident on its face.
"Ab-sama! What was this that I heard about a wedding?! And without me no less?!"
"Gek! Lo… Lola! How did you know?!" Absalom squeaked out.
The warthog zombie ignored his question, opting to turn here glare towards the two female Marines instead.
"So you are the two harlots that are trying to steal Ab-sama away from me?! Only I can marry Ab-sama!"
Both women raised an eyebrow at her proclamations, only slightly baffled by the sudden turn of events.
"Actually no. By all means, you can have him for yourself," Nami gestured towards Absalom with a shooing motion.
"Yes, do take him away. Far, far away from us is most preferable. If you wish to marry him you have both our blessing to do so," Robin added.
"You don't even need to invite us," Nami added, almost as an afterthought.
Lola blinked once, then twice, before her head slowly turned back to Absalom.
The animal hybrid felt his hair stand on end when he saw the intensity behind the warthog's gaze.
"Ab-samaaaaa! Marry meeeee!" The warthog zombie charged towards Absalom, heedless of everything else around her.
"Damn it! Not with these Sea Stone cuffs!" Absalom yelped before retreating through the side door Nami and Robin came from, screaming obscenities at the female zombie that was chasing him.
The two women watched the spectacle with pitiless eyes, their only regret was that they passed up the chance of personally punishing the slimeball themselves.
"Well… I guess let's go meetup with the rest," Nami suggested with a tired sigh.
Robin nodded in agreement but the zombie priest was quick to block their path, "Stop right there! You won't get past me!"
Nami was about to step over him when a figure blurred into the chapel, spartan kicking the priest in the back and sending him crashing into the wall.
"I OBJEEEECCCTT!" Sanji roared, his entire body aflame. "THERE'S NO WAY I'LL ACCEPT NAMI SWAN AND ROBIN CHWAN MARRYING A SCUM LI-"
Nami silenced him by tapping him lightly with her staff, instantly putting out the fire that Sanji had materialised somehow.
"You're too late," Nami sighed, already making her way out of the chapel. "Get us back to the others please, I have had it with this island already."
"Eh? Too late? D-d-d-don't tell m-m-m-me… You're already married to him?!" The chef shrieked while clutching his hair.
Robin walked past him with a giggle, "Fufufu, what she meant was you missed your timing to look like a knight in shining armour Sanji kun. Another knight had already shown up before you."
Sanji's wail of despair could be heard throughout the entire island.
Three Marines and one pirate were standing in the kitchen, a huge number of motionless bodies surrounding them on the ground.
"Ok… This is still waaaaay too convenient to be true," Franky announced skeptically.
Brook shrugged, poking one of the zombies with his walking stick while sipping a cup of tea he had helped himself to within the castle's kitchen, "I happened to learn of it by chance when I was here before. Whether you believe or not, it is still an undeniable fact."
Usopp scratched his head, "Feeding the zombies salt will instantly purify them? Why salt? And why would they still keep salt on this island then?"
Chopper tapped his chin with a hoof, "Actually… It kind of makes sense… The zombies are animated through Moria's Devil Fruit powers, and the sea counters Devil Fruit powers… And I don't think Doctor Hogback himself is a zombie so he can still eat salt..."
"Yohohoho! That is true! I can't believe I had thought eating fish was the thing that purified them in the beginning!" the skeleton laughed heartily.
Usopp, Chopper and Franky had arrived just in time when Brook was being swarmed by another horde of zombies. With the three Marines' aid, they managed to purify the horde after Brook informed them of their weakness.
"Still, you have my apologies for landing you in the same situation as I," Brook apologised, taking another sip of his tea casually.
Usopp chopped the skeleton on the head mercilessly, "At least look like you're actually sorry!"
"Oof! That rattled my skull… Because that's what my head literally is! Yohohoho!"
Franky sighed, "Alright, so salt is their weakness. What should we do? Make a giant salt shaker and pour it over the island? I got the tools but not the materials, just saying."
"Well… We don't need a giant salt shaker, just forcefully feeding them a bit of salt will do," Usopp pointed out helpfully.
Franky clucked his tongue, seemingly disappointed at the lost prospect of building a giant salt shaker.
"I think we should let the others know about this," Chopper suggested.
"Good point," Usopp nodded before taking a deep breath. "Hey Luffy! Feed salt to the zombies and the shadows will come out!"
Brook tilted his skeletal head at him, "Luffy? The Vice Admiral right? Is he around here? Because I don't see him… Not that I have eyes left in these sockets of mine! Yohohohoho!"
Usopp resisted the urge to facepalm, "No. He can hear us if we shout to him. It's his Devil Fruit."
"Ah, how interesting." The skeletal musician mused. "Very well then, may I suggest a course of action?"
"Sure, you're more familiar about this place than us anyway," Franky waved his arm nonchalantly.
"In that case, might I suggest getting my shadow back first? If nothing has changed, he should be a guard that's nearby here."
"Right, you said your shadow beat you back the last time you were here right? You want us to get it back for you?" Usopp asked.
"On the contrary, I'd like a rematch with him. My pride is on the line you see, for I had ran away quite pathetically the last time when I was beaten, I would like to fix that this round."
"Ohhhh! The words of a true man! Heck, you have my respects already, pirate or not!" Franky laughed as he slapped the skeleton on the back, or his spine for that matter.
"So umm… Your zombie should be quite friendly too right? After all, he's still you." Chopper asked hopefully.
Brook scoffed, "There's hardly any part of me inside that zombie now. He tried to cut off my afro of all things!"
The three Straw Hats stared at the afro the skeleton was talking about.
"Yeah… I've been meaning to ask about the afro for awhile now… Namely, why?" Usopp asked, crossing his arms.
"Why what? Why is it important to me? Why is it still there despite my skeletal appearance? Why is it shaped so? My, my, my. If you want your questions answered, you do need to consider your words before you get under someone's skin. Not that I have any skin mind you, yohohohoho!"
Usopp did not bother to stop his urge to facepalm this time, "Why is it important to you then?"
At those words, Brook stood a little straighter, any indication of the merriment he had before disappeared.
"Because my body is no longer living… If I lose this afro, it will never grow back… And I need it to let a friend know that it's me when I meet him again for you see, it's hard to recognise a skeleton without a face."
"A friend? Wait, wait, time out!" Franky motioned the 'T' sign with his hands. "I remember you said you were stuck on your broken ship for fifty years! How do you even know that your 'friend' is still alive?"
Brook chuckled, "Oh I wouldn't worry about that. He's quite safe at the Twin Capes and seeing how he's a whale, he should still be alive and well after all this ti-"
The skeleton's words died in his mouth when Usopp had grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him to face the sniper. The action shocked him so much that he dropped the tea cup in his hands to crash on the ground.
"Whale?! You don't mean Laboon?!"
Brook blinked once, "You… You know Laboon? H… How?"
Usopp groaned, releasing the skeleton in favour of clutching his head, "I can't believe this… You're telling me you're the one that Laboon has been waiting for all these years?"
Chopper tilted his head, "Who's Laboon?"
"He's a whale we met at Twin Capes when we entered the Grand Line. Apparently he had been friends with a group of pirates who entered the Grand Line fifty years ago, they made a promise to meet up again after they went around the world. He's still waiting there even now."
Brook's hand shook involuntarily, "Laboon… He's still there waiting for us?"
Usopp nodded slowly, "Yeah… He was bashing his head against the mountain thinking you guys were stuck on the other side or something and wanted to break the mountain down. Luffy promised that he would help him find you guys to make him stop doing it."
The skeleton brought his trembling hands up to his face, "Laboon… All these years… Even if I'm the only one left…"
"To be honest, I had expected to find nothing but the pirate crew's skeletons if we do manage to find you guys," Usopp admitted sheepishly before taking a look at Brook. "Though I guess we did find your skeleton…"
Brook clenched his fists, his demeanor hardening suddenly, "I must not tarry here. I have to go back and show Laboon his trust in us is not misplaced even if I grind these bones of mine to dust!"
Franky could no longer hold himself back and started bawling his eyes out, "Damnit! Why are you so manly?! I'm suuupeeer touched!"
"Umm… I think we should help him get his shadow back first!" Chopper suggested.
"Alright! We can't keep Laboon waiting for longer than necessary anyway!" Usopp grinned. "Lead the way!"
"So noisy… Can't even get a proper nap around here…" A voice complained.
The four of them turned, three of them expecting to see their own comrade from the words they heard.
A zombie wearing a samurai's gi and sandals was walking towards them, yawning loudly and scratching the back of his head. All of them noted the distinctive three swords that was at his waist.
"Hmmm… Didn't they say the direction of the meeting place is here? Did they all get lost or something?" The zombie wondered aloud.
"You… You are not my shadow…" Brook muttered, though loud enough for everyone to hear.
Franky raised an eyebrow, "Woah, you're telling me that your shadow was supposed to be this guy? He doesn't even have an afro!"
"Hmmm? Who the hell are you?" The zombie asked, as if seeing them for the first time.
"That's Zoro's shadow isn't it?" Chopper whispered.
Usopp nodded even as a bead of cold sweat trickled past his brow, "No doubt about it."
The zombie scratched his head with a hand, "Ah… I think I'm supposed to stop you guys or something. Not really sure why though."
Brook took a step forward, holding his walking stick parallel to the ground with both hands. The glint of metal could be seen peeking out from where the stick starts to curve.
"It seems like the scoundrel has switched my shadow out of your body for someone else's… No matter, I shall still defeat you to release the shadow within you! En garde!"
The zombie seemed to grin at the skeleton, dropping to a half crouch with his left hand on a katana's handle.
"A cane-sword eh? Let's see if you know how to use it then."
Brook kicked off the ground with his sword pointed towards the zombie, thrusting the blade towards his torso as soon as he came within range.
The sword thrust was met with empty air, as though the zombie had been an illusion.
"Ittoryu Iai: Shishi Sonson"
The sound of a blade being sheathed echoed throughout the room as the zombie reappeared behind Brook in the same half crouch position.
A large cut appeared across Brook's torso, several of his ribs breaking into pieces before disintegrating into dust. The pirate gasped out in pain as he slumped onto the ground in a heap of bones.
"BROOK!" Chopper screeched, rushing forward to check on the skeleton.
A naked blade blocked the reindeer's path, the wielder frowning at his own actions.
"Hmm… Usually I won't care if you were to go treat him now…" The zombie scratched his chin with his free hand. "But something is urging me to just get rid of all of you right here and now."
The zombie raised his sword back in preparation to strike while Chopper readied a rumble ball between his hooves.
Before the blade could descend, a figure blurred into the zombie, shoulder bashing him away from the doctor and sending him crashing towards the wall. The zombie's body did not stop and ended up destroying the wall, flying beyond the kitchen and to the room behind it.
A swordsman with a single katana on his waist stood at where the zombie used to be, a deep frown etched on his face.
"Tch… He managed to block it…" Zoro grumbled, dusting his shoulder with a hand.
"ZOROOO!" Chopper cried out in glee, hugging the swordsman's leg with tears in his eyes.
"Stop crying, hurry up and see if the skeleton is still alive… Wait… He's already dead so… Damn it, I think his stupid jokes are getting to me…" The swordsman groaned.
Chopper sniffed before rushing to the musician, flipping him on his back to diagnose him. The doctor grimaced when he saw the damage done.
"Twelve shattered ribs… I'll have to put implants on you… But I don't think we can bring you back on our ship in time..."
Brook's hand grasped onto the doctor's hand weakly, "Mi… Milk… I… Need… Milk…"
Chopper frowned, thinking it was the pirate's last request for a drink before his death.
"No… Time… Just… Give me…" The pirate gasped, his other hand clutching his chest in pain.
Chopper nodded, looking through the kitchen's fridge to find a conveniently stashed bottle of milk in the middle shelf.
Wasting no time, the reindeer poured the liquid into Brook's mouth slowly, letting the skeleton have his presumably last drink.
As soon as the bottle was emptied, Brook leapt to his feet, his ribs miraculously restored.
"I am alive!" The skeleton cheered.
Usopp slapped him on the head, "THERE'S NO WAY MILK CAN DO THAT!"
"Huh… Even cola doesn't do that to me," Franky noted with a serious expression.
"Where's Luffy?" Chopper asked the green haired swordsman.
Zoro jerked his head to the side, his eyes never leaving the hole in the wall.
The reindeer peered to the side to see the Vice Admiral busy helping himself to the food in the kitchen larder, not paying any attention to his surroundings.
The zombie returned through the broken wall while dusting his sleeves, unperturbed by the numbers in front of him.
"A swordsman huh? I guess you can help me get stronger," the zombie remarked offhandedly before unsheathing his own blades.
"Instead of using salt, if I kill the zombie, my shadow will come back right?" Zoro asked, his eyes not leaving the zombie.
"Usually, that would be the case, yes," Brook confirmed.
Zoro grinned, "Well whatever, fighting against myself… That's the best kind of training anyone can give me right now."
"Heh… I'll make you eat those words," the zombie showing a grin not dissimilar to Zoro's. "I'll have to beat you here since I made a promise that I will not lose another duel."
"What a coincidence, so did I."
The two swordsman stepped towards each other, stopping a few meters away with a hand on their sword hilts.
"Brook… You don't mind me taking this guy on myself do you?"
Brook eyed the zombie that used to house his shadow with a frown, contemplating his choices.
The zombie was a different person now so even if he defeated him, his own shadow will not return. The Marine swordsman in front of him should have the right to battle for his own shadow.
The skeleton nodded, "He's your shadow now… But permit me to at least bear witness to your duel."
Zoro smirked as he pulled out Wado Ichimonji, "Heh, just stay behind me with Luffy. Now time for me to see where I stand."
"Hoh? That sword seems familiar to me, what's its name?" The zombie asked.
"Wado Ichimonji," Zoro answered unhesitatingly. "I know Yubashiri and Sandai Kitetsu on your waist, but the last one?"
"Good eye," The zombie praised, patting the blade with the black sheathe proudly. "This one is Shusui, a Meito like yours… It has accompanied me through a lot during my journeys… No wait, wasn't Wado my first blade?"
The zombie scratched his chin in confusion. He eyed the stance that Zoro had adopted with Wado drawn.
"You use one sword just like someone… I remember? Hmmm… Am I forgetting something?"
Zoro chose to ignore the confused look of the zombie's, "Sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm a five sword style user."
The zombie looked at the swordsman in front of him again, "I see only one sword. Rokushiki?"
"No, I'll be taking those swords from you if you don't mind."
Zoro's proclamation caused the zombie to growl as he lowered himself into his stance, "Over my dead body."
The two swordsmen dashed towards each other, their blades meeting in a clash of sparks.
The zombie pushed back with his three swords, flinging Zoro away.
Not giving the Marine a chance to recover, he swung the sword in his right hand in an arc.
"Sanjuroku Pound Ho!"
Zoro tilted his head in response, letting the air bullet sail past his ear as he dashed forward without hesitation.
He brought the sword in a downward slashing motion, an attack easily parried by the zombie with the sword in his left hand.
"Don't forget I have three swords!" the zombie roared as he turned his head to slash at the Marine's exposed abdomen.
"So do I!" Zoro countered, kicking his right leg upwards quickly.
The windblade crashed against the zombie's sword with a loud clang, throwing the zombie's head back while Zoro leapt away from him.
"Rankyaku? Well then taste mine!" The zombie yelled, kicking his foot in an arc.
Zoro raised his sword in preparation to receive it, his eyes narrowed in concentration knowing how much he trained to be able to call himself a true five sword style user.
But other than creating a gust of wind, nothing else came from the zombie's kick.
Luffy broke out into laughter behind Zoro, cradling his stomach as he doubled over laughing with food still stuffed in his mouth.
"Ahahahaha! Shishshishishi! That zombie thinks… Ahahahaha! He can kick out a Rankyaku… Hehehehe! With that speed? Shishishishi!"
Zoro could not help but grin, shadow or not, his body was still his and so were his months of hard work. Something a corpse reanimated with his shadow could not replicate.
"Looks like I have the same number of blades as you then," the green haired swordsman announced.
The zombie was still looking at his leg quizzically before turning his gaze back to the Marine, "Well doesn't matter, I'll still cut you down here."
The two dashed forward with a burst of speed once more, their blades clashing against each other in a deadly blade dance.
Zoro met the zombie sword swing for sword swing, his legs kicking out airblades to intercept any blades that his own sword could not.
Zombie Zoro spun his blades quickly in a circle, "Tatsu Maki!"
Zoro lifted Wado over his head while getting ready to kick with his right foot, "Nanajuni Pound Ho!"
The two compressed bullets from Zoro's sword and kick exploded against the tornado the zombie created, dispersing it into nothing.
To the zombie's credit, instead of being surprised or succumbing to panic, it was already preparing for his next attack.
Zoro watched as the zombie settled into one of the stances he was most familiar with, the one he already knew the weakness of intimately.
"Oni Giri- Huh?"
The zombie could not help but gasp at what he was witnessing.
The Marine swordsman grinned, his single sword stood unmoving in the exact point all three swords would meet, stopping it like Mihawk did to him all too long ago.
"You… Who are you?" The zombie growled, struggling to push against the blade that held him back to no avail.
Zoro smirked, "I'm you, but better."
The zombie let the exact same smirk materialise on his face, "Heh, really confident of yourself huh? Guess I'll get a bit serious too. I am Ryuma, a samurai of the country of Wano. You are?"
"Captain Zoro of the Straw Hat Marines," Zoro replied, leaping back from the zombie to open up distance between them again. "I shall be getting both my shadow and swords back from you."
"Your shadow and swords? Heh… If you think you can get them, then come at me."
Zoro tied his bandana around his head, "Oh, I plan to."
Zombie Zoro tightened his grip on his three swords before rushing forward in a burst of speed, Zoro mimicking his movements not a second later.
The zombie raised the two swords in his hand behind the one in his mouth, Zoro leaping up into the air in a jump kick position the moment he knew what was coming.
The zombie roared as he slashed his two swords downwards.
Zoro thrusted his sword forward while kicking both his leg out.
The three blade slashes were met with a blade and two kicks, the resulting impact tossing both swordsmen flying away from each other and throwing a dust cloud.
Not swayed by the dust cloud, the two swordsmen immediately reengaged, the sword strikes blowing away the dust with the air pressure of their strikes alone.
Brook watched in open-mouthed awe at the spectacle, he could barely follow the two swordsmen's movement with his eyes, the fact that he did not have any eyes was beside the point.
"Is this… What a Marine Captain is capable of nowadays?" the skeleton gasped.
"Oh, don't worry about it, our unit is... Ermm… Special," Usopp comforted him.
The two swordsmen disengaged from their melee, both their clothes sporting various cuts yet their own flesh remains untouched.
"Heh, you said you're a five sword style user eh? Such a pity I can't fight you at your full power," the zombie sighed.
Zoro smirked, "I can say the same to you. That weak body of yours can't even kick out a half decent Rankyaku even if you wanted to."
"What a waste, I guess we'll just have to make do!"
"Heh, enough chatting! Let's end this with one last strike!"
"Ha! Exactly what I had in mind!"
The zombie started spinning the blades in his hands in front of him, generating a small cyclone.
Zoro sheathed his blade and lowered into a half crouch, his left hand gripping the blade handle tightly.
As though reading each other's minds, both opponents dashed towards each other at the same time, their figures blurring and reappearing at the place their opponent had been.
The zombie had his arms splayed open, his blades parallel to the ground.
Zoro slowly sheathed his katana that still had a little of its blade peeking out of the scabbard.
Everyone held their breaths as the two fighters remained motionless at where they stood, a gust of wind blowing between them.
The zombie moved first, sheathing all three of his swords before turning towards Zoro, a clear sword slash cutting across his entire chest.
"Splendid cut," the zombie praised.
Zoro turned, revealing a set of three light slashes across his left shoulder, "Thanks, I've been training. You weren't too bad yourself."
The zombie looked down at the mortal wound across his chest with a mocking smile, "Heh… To let this body suffer such a defeat, I'm not worthy of such words."
The green haired Marine shrugged, "As long as you feel shame, there's nothing wrong with that."
"Heh heh heh, I guess losing to the future strongest swordsman in the world isn't that bad. Take back your swords and shadow... And give this body a proper cremation, won't you?"
Zoro nodded, unsheathing Wado once more.
The zombie dropped his three swords on the ground beside him before spreading his arms wide, "Now come. A mark on the back is a Swordsman's shame after all."
"Heh, no truer words than that," Zoro grinned, pulling Wado back with his left hand while holding his wrist with his right.
Zoro slashed past the zombie, giving the legend another mark parallel to his first cut. The wound slowly ignited into flames, consuming the zombie completely in its fiery embrace.
"I would've liked to face you in your era," Zoro remarked, sheathing Wado.
"Ha! You won't like it then! Scumbags casually touching your sheathe with theirs! Too many despicable people tricking others for their own gain!"
"Heh, not like it's much different from now."
"It was an honor," the zombie smirked. "Take care of those blades you hear?"
Zoro mirrored his smirk, "Don't worry about it."
As the zombie slowly disintegrated within the flames, a black blob flew out from him to merge with Zoro's feet, forming into his shadow.
The Marine swordsman re-equipped his last two swords before picking up Shusui, wondering what to do with it.
"That was awesome Zoro!" Luffy clapped his swordsman from behind, sending him staggering forward.
"Zoro! Your shoulder! I need to bandage it!" Chopper fussed, his medical kit already in his hand.
"That was… Sniff… The manliest fight I've ever seen! Too suuupeeer bro!" Franky cheered, wiping the tears out from his eyes.
Usopp let out the breath that he had been holding, "That was too scary… Do I have to fight my own zombie too?"
"That duel definitely blew my mind! Not that I have any brains left in this empty skull of mine! Yohohoho!" Brook laughed merrily.
Zoro sighed at his friends' antics, "Hey, we're still not done here, we should find the pervert cook and the other two next."
"That's right!" Usopp clapped his hands together. "Hey Brook, we still have to find your shadow too!"
"Ah… To have met such kind Marines like you all! Truly my heart would burst out from joy! Not that I ha-"
"Hey Zoro bro, what are you going to do with that extra sword," Franky asked, ignoring the skeleton.
The swordsman stared at the sword in his hands while Chopper continued to nurse his shoulder, unsure of what he could do with it. No one else on the crew uses swords after all and he would be damned if he was going to leave it as a wall piece.
"Huh? Just use them together with your other swords of course!" Luffy grinned as though the answer was obvious.
Usopp shook his head, "Don't be ridiculous Luffy, how can he carry four swords at once? It's already weird he's using three in the first place."
Luffy stuck his tongue out at Usopp, blowing a raspberry at him.
"How will we meet up with Sanji, Robin and Nami?" Chopper asked, securing the bandage with a knot.
"Ummm… They're currently stealing the pirates' treasure inside their treasury room," Luffy informed helpfully.
Usopp rolled his eyes, "Do I even need to wonder whose idea it is?"
"Well what are we waiting for?! Let's go! I'm feeling all suuupeeer after seeing that awesome fight! I need to let loose!" Franky pumped his fists together.
Luffy lead the way out of the kitchen with the rest behind him, Zoro bringing up the rear while still staring at Shusui.
"Use it altogether huh? Heh heh heh..." Zoro grinned.