The woman stepped inside of the castle, glancing up at the ajar door, where a withered bird's nest rested. Seeing as how nothing was there anymore, she slipped through. Her steps echoed off the brick walls of the long hallway. Candles were lit in each column, yet the light was faint, leaving the woman to search with her foot to avoid any fallen ramble.
She was alone, leaving her friends guarding the ship with their lives; always with their lives. And though she had friends, there was a deeper feeling of loneliness that filled her stomach.
Where is this woman heading?
She was heading to a savior, who saved several lives on her very own ship already, and was the mentor of her dearest doctor on the ship. This savior was an old hag, a witch, a grandma who was 149 years old. It was Kureha.
The most wanted woman in the world required something she could only ask from Kureha, not from Chopper or any other doctors she could name. It was a task that couldn't involve her friends.
The floor under her foot crept. Surely by now the residents of this castle would have noticed her presence, but no one came out to check.
This woman, if you couldn't tell by now, was Strawhat Luffy, or the new Pirate King of this Era. She was the captain of the Strawhat Pirates, who had nine crew members: Pirate Hunter Roronoa Zoro, Cat Burglar Nami, Sniper King Sogeking, Black Leg Sanji, Cotton Candy Lover Chopper, Devil Child Nico Robin, Cyborg Franky, and Humming Brook. These were the infamous Strawhats, always hunted by marines yet they were the freest in the seas.
Luffy slowly crept down the hallways, now hearing the Isshi-20 on the other side of the walls unlike before. She chose to meet with the doctor past midnight, where most of her crew members and the villagers of this island were in bed. If anyone knew of her presence, then the whole island would be in trouble with the marines, and she would be in trouble with her friends. Though she was uncertain if Robin or Brook noticed her disappearance; Brook was on patrol and Robin usually spent the majority of the night with the gentlemen over a glass of tea and coffee.
The hall turned slightly to the left, ending at a stairwell. Knowing a little bit of the castle from her last visit, this stairwell would lead to Kureha's private quarters. Each step that Luffy took echoed off the walls until she took the final step on the stone staircase. To her left was an opened door with an examining table and to her right were two wooden doors. She headed to the second, turned the knobbed, and pushed the door open, then realized she had been holding her breath.
The first thing her hazel eyes saw from the room were hangings that showed creepy imagines, cabinets filled with disgusting creatures, round objects, quills, random jars filled with liquids, and what seemed to be hundreds of books. The empty bed was lying against the opposite wall, between two tall windows that allows light into the room. The person who was supposed to be asleep was on the couch across from a chair.
"Took a detour getting here?" the hag muttered, slipping some liquid from a nearby cup, something Luffy could only guess was filled with alcohol. Kureha was still in her normal clothes instead of nightclothes, meaning she was ready for business.
Luffy was taken aback by that, "You knew?" Her voice was deeper than when she first began her journey. She changed drastically from the outside, yet remained a nimrod. Since becoming the Pirate King, she developed in several places and had battle marks lining her body from her share of years out on the sea. She wasn't the same girl who punched herself in the face because of recoil or the same one who got her head stuck in a bird's mouth. Too much was lost, too many mistakes were made.
"Come to ask me about my eternal youth, about the time you did. Well, too bad for ya!" It came out with a crackling laugh. "Don't you know, the girl could smell you islands away with all of that trouble you bring along."
Though Luffy has changed since she began, she was still a troublemaker. She almost burnt the last island by practicing her shooting skills; next time she's leaving that to Usopp. "I didn't mean to cause that fire."
"Well, it got some work for the Isshi-20, so you got that goin' on." She took another gulp of her drink, pointing to the chair across from her. Luffy took the seat and sat cross-legged. Kureha raised her glass, looking straight at the girl, "Why you come? Shouldn't you be causing trouble elsewhere?"
She paused before saying a word. This has been on her mind since she visited her home island. "I'm not well; this may be my final checkup."
Kureha stared at her for a second before lifting to get another cup and filling it with her specialty. She placed it down in front of the girl and paced around, "Only you and not the others?" It could be seen that she was mainly talking about Chopper's health.
"I looked into Chopper's books; all of them have shown to be healthy."
"And that kid hasn't noticed that about you?"
"Been avoiding him for the last six months." She raised her sleeve up, where her skin started to turn into a ghastly color of purple and green. It stopped a little before her sleeve ended, but her whole shoulder was covered. "And this started three months ago."
"Do you believe you're dying and nothing can be done? Not by me or Chopper?"
Luffy nodded, "He will be heartbroken."
"And you will be dead. They will resent you for keeping your mouth shut on that."
"And I made a deal with Coby."
Kureha took a moment to register that. She wasn't much into the dealings of the government, but she did hear about this Coby kid before, the new Admiral. Which could only mean one thing; something that caused Kureha's stomach to wrench. "You got this all planned out."
She nodded, "And afterward, no one will chase them for their bounties."
The old woman understood painfully, under her breath she muttered, "Why does everyone who's gotta die come to me?" She shook her head and asked, "When?"
"I say that I would go when I felt like it." In her mind, she was thinking about waiting until Nami finished her last map. The navigator says it would take a month if they went back through the Grandline and took every detour.
"Why did you come to me then? You got it all planned out, so what do I get to do with anything'?"
"I want to know how long I have left."
"And what if by chance I do find out that you have years until death? Or that you're worrying over something minor?"
Luffy shrugged, "I don't know how, but I feel like this is the end."
"Come on, then," Kureha stood up and headed into the examining room. Luffy took her to stop on the metal table and leaned back. Her eyes closed, leaving the picture of the ceiling and Kureha's concerned eyes as she pressed the needle into her arm.
When she opened her eyes back up, the doctor was hunched over a microscope. The captain looked down at herself, noticing all of the bandages over the needle points, from her stained shoulder to both hands, and one close to her waist. Each point was sore, and not to mention that her shoulder was already sore in the first place.
"Nine weeks," the old lady said, barely looking at the girl. "It starts from your shoulder and spreads down to your arm, leaving that useless to ya in a few weeks, or days. And it's spreading' across your body, either killing you by infecting your heart or taking out your weak points, your limbs, one by one."
Luffy sighed, staring at her shoulder, "And I like having my arms."
"Whatever this is, it's rapidly damaging' your insides." She shook her head, "If it was taken care of at the first stages, then maybe you could have been saved."
"Thanks," she said, getting up from the table.
"Don't rush it and you could live a few more weeks." The witch paused for a second, "Don't think that your crew members are weak to take this news. Leaving them in the dark isn't gonna help them."
She nodded and left the room.