Title: pluck down the stars from heaven
Rating: T for now, might be upped to M later due to violence and such.
Summary: Freedom is only an illusion until you possess the strength to reach out and grasp it with your own two hands. (Or: In which a soldier is reborn as a village girl in a world where piracy runs rampant, strange fruits grant superpowers, and the laws of physics are shot to hell.) [SI/OC, LawOC, AU]
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
(AN at the bottom of the chapter.)
pluck down the stars from heaven
01: "take me there"
Seeri is the sound of the laughing wind.
It is the mirth of a light wind whistling high through the jagged precipices of salt-tunnels carved into a rocky cliff face, ancient stone carved into sharp swirls through years upon years of leaping waves and thunderous tides. The word itself is a little hard to properly translate into the standard tongue, but it means something akin to a slight mix between 'as fast as the fleeting wind that darts into crevices untouched by any others before' and 'swiftly in hopes of being quick and deft and fleet of feet.'
It is her name, though not her first.
The name she had once gone by is a very different name from the one she uses now. In a similar vein, the world she had once lived in is a completely different world from the one she inhabits now –that had been a little hard to swallow in the beginning, but it hadn't been something particularly hard to figure out after her memories had finished re-assimilating themselves in her mind, sometime back when she had been five-going-on-six during the long winter. What remains truly mystifying and baffling to her nowadays is the matter of how she even came to be in this world in the first place, though that's a slightly different issue.
Put simply, this is what the world knows: North Blue, East Blue, South Blue, West Blue.
On the other hand, this is what she remembers: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and a dozen others beside.
(And that was only the tip of the iceberg in listing the vast number of existing differences.)
Recalling some twenty-odd years of another life is not normal, not by a long shot. Particularly not when the life she recalls is one lived in an entirely different world, a life in which her career as a soldier had always meant a whirlwind of deployments and battles and guard shifts and practically everything in-between. She remembers the weight of a rifle on her shoulder, the cold kiss of a shotgun in her hands, the familiarity of knives falling through her fingertips. She remembers the acrid scent of smoke burning through the air, carcinogenic compounds, a dead end in a collapsed building, blood.
She remembers dying.
It's… not pleasant, mildly speaking.
(Translation: It fucking sucks, big time.)
Seeri, however, is not a soldier. In contrast to the rather violent life she remembers having lived once upon a time, Seeri is only another simple orphan child of Ayoka Village, one of the numerous villages dotting the coasts of one of the many islands of North Blue. It is the family that takes her in to raise as their own that names her seeri, to match her brother who is yune. Yune, which is the whisper of the summer breeze that glides sedately over calm waters, steady and reliable; yune is the wind that is warmth and midsummer and all-encompassing tranquility.
Such naming practices may not be very popular in the more urbanized cities inland, but they are rather common in these parts, these rural areas. This is especially true in the cases of quiet coastal villages as small as Ayoka, sitting right at the edge of the vast ocean blue.
In fact, within Ayoka Village itself, there is a prevailing superstition amongst the elder folk that all names hold power, particularly those rooted in nature. If you name a child after the sound of water falling down, then the child shall grow to be of grace and beauty. If you name a child for the thunder roaring in the sky, then the child will come to be of great physical prowess. Most commonly, though, children of Ayoka tend to be named after the wind and waves; the very wind and waves stirring incessantly over the vast, endless Blue.
It all comes back to the sea, she thinks. And it's true, in a manner of speaking.
Like many other coastal villages, Ayoka's general livelihood depends on the bounty that is offered to them by the plentiful sea, which varies from year to year as the seasons change. Unlike many of the other villages that depend on fishing, however, the rocky cliffs that Ayoka Village is carved into seldom see schools of fish passing by in significant numbers. Slip into the waters below the village, and the jagged spires jutting out from the bottom mean nothing but danger and death for those caught unawares.
Look closer at those rocks, however.
Look closer at those mud-covered rocks along the foot of the sloping cliff buried deep underwater, brush away the sea plants folding over this way and that, pry up the bumpy brown-black lumps from where they cling so tightly to their homes and bring them to the surface world above.
Walk to the shallows, crouch down, rinse and wash.
It takes a good scrubbing, but once the mud washes off, sometimes the lumpy oyster shells don't look quite so ugly from the outside anymore. Sometimes it's a game, seeing who finds the prettiest oyster shell that day. Seeri has never won that particular competition before, but that's not this competition that really matters.
Take a knife. Slip the blade into the crack, the opening of the oyster, and pry it open.
And if there is something that glints under the sunlight, something round and small and shiny melded within the soft flesh inside–
That is what matters.
Ayoka is a pearl-diving village. Oysters flourish along the bottom of the cliff and the sea floor that the village overlooks, and so it is oysters that the villagers of Ayoka depend on for a living. Both oyster shells and oyster flesh are sold to traveling merchants in large quantities, but it is the pearls that truly draws interest to what would otherwise be another small, unassuming village overlooked in a grand scheme of things. To a certain extent, this is still true for Ayoka, but since pearls are purchased by the rich and wealthy–
Ayoka Village does well enough for a coastal village that is as small as it is.
Life in a pearl-diving village half buried into the cliffs is far from safe and comfortable. Pearl divers of the village die each year in various accidents underwater, and the village itself is often cold and wet; misery's harbinger is in the salt-winds whistling in through the cracks and stealing what little warmth the hearth has to offer in winter. But even so, Seeri finds a certain charm to living such a simplistic life, despite it being harsh and dangerous. She is no stranger to danger, after all, and as hazardous as pearl-diving itself can be, it still does not compare to the art of murder.
In any other place, any other time, any other world –within any other parallel reality of this world, even one where Seeri still retains her memories of her past life– absolutely nothing would happen. Seeri would live out the rest of her days as yet another villager of Ayoka, a pearl diver, and she would live quietly and peacefully. Put her in a crowd, and she would only be another nameless face among many, unassuming and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
There are two reasons why that does not happen in this reality, and in hindsight, of course. Of course it figures that those are the two reasons why Seeri does not manage to live the life of normalcy that she would have chosen in any other reality parallel to this one, left to her own devices.
Here are the reasons in a nutshell: Marines, and pirates.
(Of course it would be the involvement of the Marines and pirates that upends everything.)
It starts with the Marines.
Or rather, it technically all starts with pirates –but it's the Marines who come first, guns raised and yelling, and the village is thrown into an uproar. (Or as much of an uproar that a village as small as Ayoka can get into; mostly, it only consists of the elderly complaining about being woken up so rudely in the middle of the night and the children scrambling around in excitement, as well as the epic escape of a duck tumbling down the cliff and into the sea. That kind of an uproar.)
Cold night, gray clouds strewn across the sky, water-heavy wind.
"I can feel the rain in my bones," Granny Haesse complains groggily. Haesse, the soft sigh of the receding tide on long shores under the light of the gentle moon curved in heaven. "Stars and stones. Mark my words, there is a high storm a-stirring on the horizon. My back hurts. Someone fetch me my walking stick."
"… The Marines are just lining us up, we won't be walking anywhere, Granny." the teenage boy beside the old woman soothes, to no avail.
"When you get to my age, Yune, you'll see the importance of a walking stick." Granny Haesse sniffs and turns her nose up in the air. Then, deliberately repeating herself: "My back hurts."
"… You're asking for a walking stick because your back hurts?" the teenager asks in complete deadpan. "A walking stick is a walking stick because it's meant for walking. What does walking have to do with your back when you're just standing here, Granny?"
"Why you impudent little–"
Seeri gives up and goes to fetch the cranky old woman her walking stick.
"You're no fun, Seeri," her brother says, but the tone is not one of complaint. If anything, it hides an undercurrent of fondness and laughter. "Take all the wind out of my sails, why don't you?"
"… You were teasing Granny again, weren't you?"
Yune, sandy-haired and golden-eyed, simply sticks out his tongue and smiles. For all that he is hailed as the best diver of the village, Yune has never quite grown out of that mischievous streak of his a mile wide from childhood. Many were the merry chases that villagers caught in his web had been led on; loudly had the laughter of silver bells and cockle shells rung through the air.
"Attention!" It's the Marine stepping forward in front of the villagers who catches their eye now. The squad of Marines responsible for barging in upon them in the dead of the night fan out and surround them in a semicircle, and some of the villagers shuffle uneasily from their place among the rocks. Although this is home, there is no comfort in it, not now. For all that the Marines are meant to protect the people, they know only too well that this is not always the case; why, last month they had received word that the neighboring village…
The commanding Marine stands tall and proud.
"I apologize for the inconvenience that our presence has caused you tonight," his voice is loud and clear. "However, we have received reports that there is a pirate crew hiding within these cliffs –the area we have been assigned to search includes your village, so please be patient while we conduct the search."
His words are nice and pretty, of that there is no doubt.
The actions of his subordinates, however, paint an entirely different picture.
"What is that child doing!? That pearl necklace belonged to my great-great-grandmother, why is he taking it–"
"Shell bracelets; those are the shell bracelets I've spent this entire moon crafting–"
"Look, Da! Da, isn't that my basket? The pearls–"
(This is how everything begins, this is how the chaos begins to unfold; this is the prelude to the rising storm.)
"Sah," Yune steps forward, words clumsy in the rough standard tongue that is rarely used here, so unlike the water-notes and wind-whistles that Ayoka villagers write and speak and know by heart. "Sah, please stop 'is. Ain't no one 'ere causing no 'ouble fah mah-reens."
"Of course there isn't," the Marine responds, smiling gaily. "We are only gathering evidence that can be used in tracking down the pirates hiding here, nothing else. There is no need for any agitation, boy."
"Sah, no pirates 'ere." Yune insists and spreads out his arms to the side, gesturing towards his fellow villagers. Seeri sidles a little closer behind her brother in a movement as casual as casual can be, not liking the light that enters the Marines' eyes at seeing someone stand up against them. "Ain't no pirates 'ere, ah swear."
"I'm afraid your word isn't good enough," the smooth reply makes more than one pair of eyes narrow dangerously, but no one moves. No one moves, because they are unarmed villagers caught off guard and dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night, while the Marines are clearly well-prepared for this outright ransacking of their village.
It makes something in her burn at seeing this, this outright injustice, seeing their hard work being so easily carted off like this, by a group of Marines abusing their status. Not for the first time, Seeri thinks that things like this would rarely happen in the inland cities, where communication was well-developed and news traveled much, much faster than a small village buried into the cliffs overlooking the sea.
The isolation of Ayoka Village is as much a curse as it is a blessing –the hazardous location itself means that few would be willing to venture so far out to the sea where the oysters are plentiful, which in turn ensures that Ayoka has few competitors in the pearl-diving business. Yet on the flipside, when occurrences like these occur –rare as they tend to be hereabouts– there is no one they can turn to for help. Even if they report this incident and it isn't brushed under the rug like so many 'accidents' are wont to be, the red tape of bureaucracy will be a nightmare in itself to go through, and it will probably take somewhere around a year for their complaint to even be processed.
Because, even if Ayoka is one of the only pearl-producing villages around here, they are small and out-of-the-way enough that they rank very lowly on the list of priorities. It is the inland cities where "big business" transactions take place that the bulk of attention from the authorities is focused. Who would spare a second thought for a village as small as Ayoka?
Seeri sees it a moment before it happens.
"Brother, don't," she warns. There is something unusually dark in her brother's eyes as they see the Marines begin carting things out from their home –his lips are only firmly set in a frown as they take out the cleaned oysters and carefully-polished pearls, but it is the appearance of a small, tattered box that changes everything. To be sure, it is not a box that Seeri remembers ever seeing before, but judging from the way Yune stiffens, doubtless it contains something precious to him inside.
"Hey look, it's a locked box I found in that hovel over there! Looks pretty neat, huh? Do you guys wanna–"
That's all the Marine manages to get out before he goes under in a tangle of flailing limbs and loud yells.
Yune is physically strong in his own right –years of diving and living on the cliffs makes him hard and sturdy, a powerhouse, but this is a Marine, a Marine. A Marine who, no matter how despicable his character might be, has nonetheless still received official combat training, and for all his brute strength, Yune is still only just a young villager with his heart in the right place and his strength not enough to match his heart.
Not quite, not yet.
Bluntly speaking, Seeri does not fear Marines, even if she is reluctant to confront them such as Yune is doing right now. For all that she remembers of blood and fighting from a previous life, that does not mean she is eager to return to such a life now that she has tasted peace in Ayoka. As long as the Marines do not attack her personally, she will look the other way in their looting and pillaging –pirates are much the same way, are they not? Visitors to Ayoka are rare, but incidents like these have occurred before on separate occasions.
This, however, is personal.
This is her brother that these Marines are now holding down and beating as punishment for daring to try and take back what belongs to him.
As a sibling, even if not directly by blood –how can she stand aside?
(At least, this is how she rationalizes her actions to herself in the aftermath; in truth, Seeri leaps into the fray only a heartbeat after the other Marines begin converging on Yune.)
There is something to be said, however, for the difference between remembering how to fight, and actually fighting. And that is that they are different, that remembering, knowing how to fight is very different from actually fighting, and it would do well to keep that in mind beforehand, prior to jumping headfirst into a fight. Particularly if the person in question happens to be a rather malnourished village girl, and the people that she is trying to fight against are hardy young Marines in tip-top shape.
It is not much of a contest.
Seeri manages to catch one with a hook to the face and another with a heavy kick between the legs, but then the rest start wising up to her and she soon finds herself forced onto her knees in front of the commanding Marine. It is an act of humiliation and shame, being forced to submit in a kneeling position like this. Yune is no different beside her.
It galls, burns.
"You're an idiot," her brother informs her tartly.
"And you're not?" she returns affably, and that's the end of their conversation.
"Enough of that country lingo," the Marine in front of them snaps, superiority etched deep into his very posture. "Are you aware that you have attacked Marines in the midst of conducting a search on your village, and as such have endangered the safety of your village by causing such a ruckus, such a delay?"
"Ain't no danger 'n first place, sah."
"Hm? What was that, girl?" the Marine casts a dismissive eye over her –and then something in him sharpens, sparks in interest. "I believe –did I hear you correctly? You admit to having connections to pirates?"
Cue complete moment of what-the-hell-kind-of-bullshit-is-this-guy-trying-to-pull-off-now.
"My, my, I'm afraid I can't let that stand. But… that, conversation, should be held elsewhere, away from prying ears. And eyes." A low grin spreads across the man's lips, and the expression is something akin to a leer. Seeri frowns. "I'm sure that you will have much to say to me."
He reaches out a hand to cup her face, teasingly, mockingly–
And she bites him.
The coppery taste of blood is much more familiar in her mouth than it really should be, and someone screams –the Marine has a surprisingly shrill scream for such a baritone voice– and then it burns.
(There are three knives that he had been holding in his other hand, and he instinctively slashes out at her when he feels teeth tearing through his palm, clamping down hard, and so he automatically does the first thing that comes to mind in ridding himself of this pain.
He gouges open her face.)
Pure, blank, mindless panic.
… It is only natural to react this way after being attacked in such a vulnerable area. Her face. Even a life as a soldier had never led to such an attack; she knew how to deal with cuts and slashes along the arms, torso; she knew how to amputate a leg, she knew to squeeze out blood from a wound to prevent infections–
She should not have frozen up, but…
Her face is cut open and hurt and bleeding, so much blood–
She can't see.
She can't see.
She can't see.
There is nothing but a hazy crimson mist spread out before her, a sea of red. Everything passes in a red blur –there is screaming, shouting; she trips and falls and scrambles to her feet again, someone kicks her, she stumbles, then there is the shadow of someone who lunges and–
She unconsciously takes a step backwards to steady herself, except.
Except she steps on nothing but the open air, and then she is falling, falling, falling.
(Seeri is a village girl who practically grew up in the sea itself, swimming deep within the saltwater day in and day out, and sometimes people joke by saying that it would be easier to drown a fish than to drown a child of Ayoka. However, right now Seeri is hurt, bruised, bleeding; no matter the strength of her mind, it does not erase the weakness of her body.
She blacks out before she even hits the waves below.)
Is she awake? Maybe.
"… I… where am I? Why is it dark?" Her voice is soft, hoarse. It hurts to speak. Something stings on her face and pulls tight when she moves her lips, and so she stops and remains still.
"Didn't understand a word of that, I'm afraid. You a villager from these parts?"
Seeri is awake, and now acutely chilled and aware.
It's not a hallucination, not a disembodied voice, not an echo. A person. A masculine voice, to her right, speaking to her. Speaking to her.
There is another person here.
(Wherever 'here' is. What happened? There were the Marines who raided the village, then Yune–)
"Who are you," the voice corrects her. "And as much as it is a relief that we won't have to communicate by using charades, I'm going to have to ask you to explain yourself first, falling down from the sky like that."
Surprisingly enough, it seems to be explanation enough for him.
"Marines, eh? I see."
"… You do?"
There is a brief silence in the air.
"My name is Jean Bart," the man says instead of responding directly. Then, in three words that suddenly explains everything about his reaction (or rather, lack thereof), "I'm a pirate."
Hi all! Starting a One Piece fic here. Welcome to pluck down the stars from heaven, everyone. :D
As some of you might know, I started this fic based on a request from a friend while I was on vacation –still am, actually, but I'll be coming back this weekend– and basically, she just really wanted to see another LawOC fic in the fandom and I have the freedom to do whatever else I wanted? (Scratches head)
… To be honest I haven't read very many existing One Piece OC fics so I'm not sure what's standard for this sort of thing, and personally I tend to prefer gen nowadays, but, well. Please bear with me while I'm still trying to sort things out here. :) I'm still crawling through reading the manga…
Also, since the One Piece manga still has yet to be completed, be warned that there may either be some significant re-vamping in the future, or significant AU divergence from canon. We'll be seeing some AU-ness anyways, though I'm still not sure if I'll let Ace live or die in this story. But we won't be getting to that until a long ways yet. ;3 Don't be surprised if there's a lot of back and forth editing going on.
Law won't be appearing in this story for a while, either, so for anyone who might be looking forward to his entrance… please be patient.
In regards to the rating of the story: right now, I think it's safe to say that we have a T rating, but the T might change to M later on as we get into some darker elements. Violence, gore, etc. The whole Tenryuubito abusing slaves issue might earn this story a M rating when we get to it later, too, so. Consider this a fair warning here on what you might be getting yourselves into by reading this story!
There's a lot of background-setting stuff in this chapter, and I'm sorry if it all seems rather long-winded and tedious. Hopefully things will get better starting from the next chapter, yeah? :D
QUESTION: Generally speaking, what would you look forward to seeing, or would like to see happen in an OC story for One Piece, and what advice would you have to give?
Please leave a review~
Till next time,