"Need some company?"
Zoro turned to see Sakura clutching the ropes that led up to the crow's nest. She had a thick blanket wrapped around her, but was still slightly shivering from the cold. With a grunt, he shifted over, and she settled herself down next to him, glad to be partially sheltered from the icy winds. They sat quietly for several minutes, and she wondered if it would be appropriate to say something.
"How's Nami?" Zoro's voice finally broke the silence.
Sakura bit her lip and unconsciously pulled her blanket tighter around herself. "I don't...I don't want to get close to her just in case my powers act up…but Vivi told me her fever's rising."
"Hmmm…" was all she got in response, before the silence continued. Zoro seemed unconcerned but Sakura couldn't help but wrack her brains for something to keep the conversation going.
"You're trying to think of something to say, huh?"
Sakura jerked her head up in surprise, but Zoro was scanning the ocean. She frowned. "How did you know?"
Zoro snorted. "For a spy, you're pretty easy to read."
"Tch. I'm more than just a spy, you know," Sakura muttered, scooting away while glaring in the swordsman's direction. He was sitting so still that the snow was starting to pile up on his head.
Zoro was still peering into the ocean. "That's weird."
"Nice talking to you, too."
"No, not you," Zoro pointed forward, "Look over there."
Sakura peered over the crow's nest and squinted into the distance. "There's a thing," she observed.
"A human," Zoro corrected, "A human...standing on the ocean."
"Gimme the binoculars." Sakura jerked them away from Zoro's face despite his cry of annoyance and used them to peer ahead.
The whirling snowflakes made it difficult to process, but she soon spotted a figure who seemed to be hovering just above the choppy waves. He was outfitted in a thick cloak and a funny hat, with a bow and arrows strapped to his back.
"Oi, Luffy! There's something ahead of us! I think it's a person standing on the water!" Zoro called down to where the captain and Usopp were playing with the snow.
"A person!? Oi, oi, Zoro, what are you talking about?" Usopp yelled back.
"What would you call the thing standing in front of us then?!"
Sakura scanned the water around the ship. Was it her imagination or…?
"Hey, rice ball, look at the water in front of us," she murmured. The stranger ahead was calling out something but Zoro ignored him and followed her instructions.
"Am I looking for anything specific?" he asked, his voice barely audible over the wind.
Sakura nodded toward the stranger. "The water…it's a lot darker all around him. That guy...he's not standing on the water. There's something below that's holding him up. Something...really big."
What looked like a mountain suddenly exploded above the water, sending the Merry flying backwards. Sakura screamed as she tumbled out of the crow's nest, her hands scrabbling against its railing. Seconds later, she was jerked back up, her head thumping painfully against something. Ignoring the stars that crowded her vision, she looked up to see Zoro's hand wrapped around her arm.
"Uhh...thanks.." she muttered. Zoro nodded once and released her arm, and they both sprang down to join Luffy and a squealing Usopp.
"Is that a ship?!" the sniper cried out. Sakura studied the enormous oval structure that dwarfed Merry, its metal sides decorated with lines.
"Looks kinda' like a watermelon," she noted.
Before anybody could make another sound, the mound seemed to collapse, its metal plating receding to reveal a ship's sails inside. Sakura immediately recognized the black flag with a skull and crossbones that was tied to the top. The thing in front of them was a pirate ship.
"BEHOLD, 'BRE-KING' THE WAR SUBMARINE! TREMBLE BEFORE ITS GREATNESS!" A voice boomed.
"Its masthead is a hippo," Zoro noted.
Sparks fluttered around Sakura's hands as the "Bread King's (or something like that)" deck swarmed with men. "Guys, we got company."
With the snow and Nami's sickness, Sakura didn't think the situation could get worse. At least, that was what she thought before their deck was invaded by a small army of guys with guns.
Luffy and Zoro had remained quiet and calm as the invaders crowded the Merry, so Sakura jammed her fists into her pockets and leaned back against the railing, keeping her head down so nobody could see her roaming eyes.
Maybe fifty men. All of them wearing identical green coats and carrying some kind of gun. As for that guy over there…
The ship door suddenly burst open, startling many of the men, and Sanji stumbled out, his breath coming out in short puffs. "Oi, what's going on?" he cried.
Sakura mentally counted to three and watched the cook's shocked appearance instantly dissolve. He slowly pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, lit it, and stuck it into his mouth. "Well then...what's happening here?" he asked calmly.
"Our ship is under attack," Luffy replied, his face devoid of emotion.
At least a dozen guns clicked to point at the cook, who simply simply blew out a puff of smoke. "That's what I guessed," he exhaled.
With a sigh, Sakura moved back to her observations. As for that guy over there…What the hell is he even wearing?
The figure of interest looked vaguely like a marshmallow with a hippo head. A metal corset surrounded his ball-like body, and a purple beard exploded from a wide and scowling mouth that strangely looked metal as well and which, at the moment, was chewing on a sword.
"Is he eating a knife?!" Luffy cried, sticking his tongue out.
"That's gotta' hurt!" Usopp muttered with a face of disgust.
Sakura ignored the pair and calmly watched marshmallow man, ignoring the dozen guns that clicked around her when she raised her head. At this point, being direct seemed like the best option. "So...any reason why you're on our ship, sir?"
"Mrrppphh!" Marshmallow man tossed the handle of the knife into his mouth and bent it with a loud crunch. "We need an Eternal Pose to Drum Island. Do you guys have any?"
"Unfortunately, no, we've never heard of that island," Sakura's voice was as cold as the snow that fell around them. "We really do apologize for that."
"Yeah, so hurry up and get off our ship!" Luffy yelled.
There was no way they could end this without a fight. Sakura quietly slipped a sparking hand behind her back.
"Hmmm, how rude of you. I guess, in that case, why don't I just take all of your treasure?" marshmallow man waddled over to the edge of the Merry. Sakura frowned. Why was he eyeing the wood railing?
"But first, I'm a little hungry." With a lunge, marshmallow man unhinged his jaws and clamped his mouth over the wooden ship railing.
Sakura watched with her mouth agape as the wood splintered, a chunk disappearing down the guy's throat. "WHAT THE FUCK?!"
"WHAT IS THIS GUY?!" Usopp shrieked. Sakura quickly glanced around. None of the green-coated men seemed surprised over their leader's actions.
"STOP EATING OUR SHIP!" Luffy yelled, while marshmallow man slurped down their anchor with a satisfied grunt.
One of the soldiers cocked a gun at Luffy's face. "Don't interrupt Lord Wapol while he's eating!"
Wapol? Is that the dude's name? Sakura watched as Luffy turned around and punched the soldier in the face with an outraged "SHUT UP!"
"Shoot them!" the soldiers yelled, their guns leveled toward Luffy.
Sanji released a puff of smoke, a grin on his face. "Does this mean we can start fighting?"
"Should've started a long time ago, in my opinion," Zoro added.
"Can't we just verbally negotiate?!" Usopp wailed from where he cowered by the mast.
Sakura launched herself at one of the soldiers. "The Wapol guy probably has a Devil Fruit! Watch out for him!"
Just as the soldier aimed his gun at her face, sparks erupted from her hands and flooded his face, and he fell down twitching. Within the same second Sakura whirled around, ducking under the arms of another soldier and slamming her elbow into his neck.
A thud sounded next to her and she spun around, a flare of pink light glowing in her palm, but it was only Zoro.
"Duck," he ordered and she dropped to the ground, grinning as he took the opportunity to slash through the air and cut down three more soldiers.
"You know, I haven't actually seen you in full action yet, besides the little I saw at Whiskey Peak and Loguetown," she teased while leaping back to her feet, "I'm guessing napping isn't your only skill, rice ball?"
"Same goes for you, chibi." Zoro turned and grinned at her, amusement sparking in his eyes, "You aren't having too hard of a time right now are you?"
Sakura's response was to step closer to him, the flare in her palm darting outward and expanding into a dome-like shield around them. In the same second, a pair of gunshots sounded, and she visibly winced as pain erupted in her body like a recoil, though she had taken enough gunshots in the past to keep her shield strong. She turned around to glare at the two guilty soldiers, who both looked shocked that the pink dome hadn't even wavered from the bullets.
"You...You have a Devil Fruit?" One of them whimpered, his gun clattering to the ground.
"Yeah, and that really hurt, you pickle," she growled. The shield collapsed, its pink energy flowing back and condensing in her hand, "You really think you guys can just come in and attack our ship? Take this! Flare!"
She slammed her palm into the first guy's chest before kicking the other in his family jewels, and both went down twitching and whimpering. Zoro barked out a laugh. "I take it you can handle yourself," he said before leaping away.
"Damn straight I can. I actually thought they would put up a real fight," she muttered, grabbing the wrist of the guy nearest to her and dealing him a punch to the face. A chewing sound echoed from her left, and she glanced over to see Wapol still gnawing away at Merry.
"DUDE, CAN YOU STOP DOING THAT?!" she screamed, leaping over. Sparks erupted from her palms, but Wapol scrambled away, chunks of wood bulging from his mouth. He swallowed, and to Sakura's shock, launched himself at her, his jaws wide open.
She rolled to the side, an inch away from his snapping teeth. "ARE YOU TRYING TO EAT ME, WHAT THE HELL?!"
"That bitch thinks she can take on Wapol-sama and his Chew-Chew Fruit!" She heard one of the soldiers call out while laughing. Chew-Chew Fruit? So this ability is from a Devil Fruit! Is he just able to eat everything then?
"HEY, YOU! STAY AWAY FROM SAKURA!" Luffy clashed two soldiers' heads against the floor and sprinted over, his hands pulled back ready to punch.
Sakura watched with wide eyes as Wapol turned around, his mouth wide open. "Luffy, wait, you need to stay away from his-"
"...mouth.." She finished. The only thing visible were visible were Luffy's arms, still stretched out into fists. The rest of his body (and head) were somewhere in Wapol's enormous mouth.
"Huh? What are these stretchy things?" Wapol muttered, staring down at Luffy's arms.
Zoro leapt over to Sakura's side, his katanas all sheathed. "Did he just...eat Luffy?"
Sakura swallowed. "Maybe?"
"Should we be concerned?"
"I don't even know."
Suddenly, the ship door slammed open once more and Vivi burst out, her eyes wide. "What's going on?"
Sanji dealt a kick to the last standing soldier's head and leaned against the wall. "Oh, Vivi-chan, how is Nami-san doing?"
Vivi stared at the moaning soldiers around them. "Uh..I...umm…"
"OI! Why is this person so hard to chew?!" Wapool complained, while weird bulges began forming around his mouth.
Vivi gasped. "You…!"
Sakura frowned. Luffy's arms...were retracting…
"WHY YOU..!" Luffy's fists suddenly snapped back and slammed into Wapol's chest, sending the marshmallow man flying out into the distance. "GET THE HELL OFF MY SHIP!"
"Well, that was solved easily," Zoro mused.
"AHHHH! WAPOL-SAMA!" somebody from the Bread-king shrieked. Sakura hid a chuckle as the soldiers around them scrambled to their feet and dashed back to their ship.
"WE NEED TO SAVE WAPOL-SAMA! HE CAN'T SWIM!" Another person called out.
The weird man with the bow and arrows and the funny hat from before suddenly appeared at the top of the Bread-King, a furious expression on his face. "You may have escaped us today but we will return! Remember us!"
"Yeah, yeah," Sakura muttered while surveying the damages on the ship, "Usopp, do you think you can patch up Merry?"
Usopp scrambled over from where he was hiding behind the mast. "It definitely won't look the same as before but I'll do my best!"
"Yosh! We showed those idiots!" Luffy declared, pumping his fist in the air as the watermelon ship hurriedly submerged and disappeared.
Sanji edged away from him. "Oi, oi, you're covered in saliva."
Sakura laughed and turned to Vivi. "Hopefully we didn't wake Nami up. How's she doing, Vivi? …Yo, Vivi? Is something wrong?"
The princess's face was pale, and her mouth was open in shock. She was staring in the direction of where Luffy had sent Wapol flying, but shook her head and glanced at Sakura. "That...umm nothing's wrong. Nami's still sleeping."
Judging from the worry on Vivi's face, something was definitely wrong, but now wasn't the best time. Sakura mentally reminded herself to ask Vivi later. "Okay then…"
"Well, weird pirate guys aside, let's keep sailing," Zoro interrupted while climbing up the ropes back into the crow's nest. "The sooner we hit an island, the sooner Nami's back to normal."
With chuckles and nods of agreement, the crew went on with their duties. Within a few minutes, except for the bite marks on the ship, it was like nothing had happened.
"She's getting worse, isn't she?"
Vivi and Sanji looked up from where they were crouched over Nami, who was panting in her sleep. Sakura shrank against the door, sparks still erupting all over her body in response to her distress.
"I know I shouldn't be here, but I'm right, aren't I? Nami's just getting worse."
Vivi sighed and glanced back at the unconscious navigator. "This isn't an ordinary cold, and there's nothing we can do until we figure out what exactly caused her sickness."
In the corner, Carue ruffled his feathers and quacked.
"Her fever just keeps rising," Sanji wrung out a washcloth in a bucket and carefully placed it on Nami's head, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. "I don't know how else to help our poor Nami-san."
"Why don't we just dump water on her? Will that help?" Luffy asked, bouncing through the doorway. Sakura hurriedly ducked to the side to prevent any of her sparks from hitting her energetic captain.
Sanji responded to Luffy's suggestion by kicking him in the face, followed by a punch from Vivi. "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!"
While Sakura let out a half-hearted chuckle, Usopp poked his head through the doorway. "Oi, it's getting dark. Should we stop for the night?"
Vivi settled back into a chair and rubbed her forehead. "Yes. That sounds like the best option."
Sanji leaned back and stretched. "Without Nami-san, it won't be safe to travel in the dark," he agreed.
"Why don't you two go out and get some fresh air and rest?" Sakura offered, "I can look after her until morning."
Sanji and Vivi exchanged looks. "Umm...no offense, Sa-chan, but…" Vivi said quietly, gesturing towards the sparks around Sakura's head.
"I'll just make sure not to get too close to her. If anything serious happens I'll yell," Sakura insisted, "You guys have been looking after her all day. You need a break."
Trying to look convincing with bright pink sparks dancing around her was definitely hard, but Sakura somehow managed to pull it off, because ten minutes later, she found herself huddled in the corner of the room, alone except for the sleeping Nami.
"Hopefully Sanji and Vivi actually get some rest," she muttered to herself, "But knowing them, they'll stay up all night worrying."
Making sure her Devil Fruit powers were still at a reasonable distance, she shifted closer to Nami until she could watch the navigator breathe. Sweat beaded her forehead and her cheeks were flushed, yet she was still shivering.
"Sorry I haven't been able to visit you as much as the others have," Sakura whispered, "Trust me, I wanted to, but my powers are keep getting in the way."
Nami murmured something inaudible in her sleep. Sakura raised her hand and watched the sparks flicker around her palm. They always appeared when she thought of Nami's predicament, whether she wanted them to or not. "My powers usually aren't this hard to control. I think...I think it's because I'm really scared of losing you."
She shifted awkwardly on the floor so that she could lean her head against the wall. "You know it's strange. I...When I became a Straw Hat pirate, I knew that you guys would come to mean the world to me. But I guess...it's only now that I'm realizing I'm not on my own anymore. It's not only my own life I have to protect, it's you guys too. I've found so much, but I also have so much more to lose."
"I think it makes my power stronger, because I have so much more I love, and so much more to fight more." Sakura chuckled. "But I guess that means I need to spend more time learning to actually control my ability."
She turned to face the navigator, a lump forming in her throat. "So that's why Nami, I'll never forgive you if you die, okay? I don't want to lose you...so don't give up. Got it?"
Nami let out a small sigh, but her lips formed a tiny smile. Sakura grinned, and quickly wiped away the tears forming in her eyes. Since when do you get so emotional? She thought to herself.
Sakura whirled around to see Zoro leaning against the doorframe. She scowled, annoyance building in her chest. "You mocking me?"
"No...I meant what I said," Zoro muttered as he shuffled in to sit a few feet away from her, "Those really were some nice words, chibi."
How the fuck am I supposed to respond to that? Sakura thought angrily while tugging at her bangs. She cleared her throat. "You know I don't like it when you call me chibi, rice ball."
The swordsman shrugged. "Well you don't seem that upset about it anymore so I don't think it really bothers you anymore."
"More like I've kinda' just given up."
"I still win then."
"And your grand prize is the ability to call me chibi?"
"Works for me."
"Whatever rice ball." Sakura leaned her head back against the wall and let out a large yawn, deliberately refusing to make eye contact with the swordsman.
He glanced sideways at her. "You should get some rest."
"I wanna' watch over Nami. I haven't gotten a chance to spend time with her this entire time," she replied quietly. Her tone made it clear that she wasn't in the mood to argue, so the last thing she expected was a giant blanket being thrown at her head.
"If you wanna stay here then just sleep on the floor," Zoro said as he moved to grab another blanket and wrap it around himself. "I'll wake you up if anything changes with Nami. Seriously, the last thing we need is another person getting sick because she was too stubborn to get some rest."
Sakura narrowed her eyes in suspicion. Was the rice ball actually being genuine with his offhand concern? She watched him carefully, but all he did was settle down, his back against the wall and his katanas at his side. A warning of Don't go to sleep! He'll draw a mustache on your face or something! was playing through her head, but she couldn't ignore the exhaustion that was weighing down her eyelids now that the adrenaline of the day was dying down. Casting a final anxious glance at Nami and a final warning glance at Zoro, Sakura leaned against the wall, and closed her eyes.
"OI! I SEE AN ISLAND AHEAD!"
Sakura jerked up and her eyes darted wildly around her. She was on the ground, covered with two blankets. The room was empty except for Nami, who was sleeping in bed a few feet away.
Wait. Why was she on the ground?
Oh. Last night. Conversation with Zoro. Yeah. The memories of the night before flooded back into her head and she quickly sat up and stretched her arms, glancing sideways at the unconscious navigator. Nami looked exactly as she had the night before, which sent sparks flying from Sakura's head. Judging by the light that streamed through the window, she had slept the entire night away.
"Island. Sanji said something about an island," she muttered to herself, quickly getting to her feet and racing out the door. The frosty air stung her skin through her cardigan and she quickly hustled back in to pick up one of the blankets on the ground.
Suddenly, something made Sakura stop and frown. She had woken up with two blankets covering her, hadn't she? "I swear I only had one blanket when I fell asleep," she muttered to herself. Somebody must have come in and gotten her another.
Shrugging, Sakura dashed out, a blanket now wrapped around her shoulders, and burst out onto the snowy deck to see the rest of the crew and Vivi peering out into the distance.
"Yo! Good morning, Sa-chan!" Sanji called out cheerfully, "Look at the island!"
"You think they'll have a doctor for Nami?" Usopp wondered aloud.
"Hopefully. I don't think Nami'll last much longer without actual medical attention," Zoro mused.
Vivi touched Sakura's shoulder. "I didn't get a chance to check on you and Nami-san. How is she?"
Sakura shrugged. "I made sure not to get too close, but she still looks the same," she reported. A side thought entered her mind. So Sanji was probably the one who got me the extra blanket huh?
She turned her attention away from Vivi to study the large island ahead of the ship. It was peculiar, with what looked like a large expanse of trees near the coastline and, strangest of all, three tall, cylindrical land masses in the center of the island. For some odd reason, the cylinder shapes made Sakura think back to when she would go to the market with Keri back at Kaihana Island. On the street corners there would always be people singing and playing simple instruments. One of the instruments was a hollow cylinder that people would bang with their hands to create a beat.
"Hey...back when that hippo ship attacked us, their leader guy...Wapol...He asked us if we had an Eternal Pose to a specific island," she murmured.
"Yeah...now that you mention it, he wanted to go to a place called Drum Island," Usopp mused, rubbing his chin.
Drums. The hollow cylinders people would bang on in the street corners. They were called drums.
And they looked just like the cylindrical masses on the island in front of them.
"This is just a guess," Sakura muttered, "But do you think this...is Drum Island?"
A/N: Feels good to be back :)