Siren in the Deep

by Purple Mongoose/PallaPlease

Escape of a Demon

---

---

        He considered darkly the unexpected difficulty of his chosen bounty, angry in part at himself for failing to break free of the men who had been hiding in the shadows, and, in the same token, wryly amused at the dulled color of his swords lit by the moonlight streaming through the grilled skylight of the hold.  Knowing he could see the trio of sheathed blades carelessly tossed to the floor over the expanse of his temporary prison had a dual quality to it: on one hand, it would take little effort to retrieve them once he got free of the ropes binding him to the wall.  On the other, it meant his captors were unusually stupid, or very lacking in foresight, and this made it even more painful being captured by them. 

        Leaning forward, he tested the strength of his bonds, having woken only a few minutes before after a bout of unconsciousness he had not wished for, and learned his hands were closer to the top of his head than he thought.  His elbows were crooked, allowing the ropes threaded along the heavyset holes in the wall room to pull forward a little, and he frowned in concentration.  He lifted one boot from the floor, planting it firmly on the thick wall and channeling the majority of his weight down it, levering his other boot beside it and working them apart.  Applying his weight equally to both legs, he kept them a shoulder's distance away from one another and, gradually, inched himself up the wall, fingers curling apprehensively and finding no way to undo the knots by entangled hand. 

        Steadying his body, keeping his feet stiffly pushed to the straight boards lining his shoulder blades, he found he could reach the two knots with his mouth, ignoring the uncomfortable brush of the bristles on his lips.  He clamped his teeth over one of the jutting curls and chewed for a moment to soften the cording braid, tugging pensively with his jaw and biting back a groan when it stubbornly refused to budge.  Working it for a moment more, glancing across the dark hold to see if he could spot a weakness or latch-door, he pulled again with his teeth and nearly smashed the back of his head on the wall as it came loose, dropped free from his incisors.  He spat out, quietly, the strings caught on his tongue and in his teeth, grimacing where he could feel ones that stayed resolutely, and returned to his chore.

        He forced his tongue through the opening, shuddering at the scrape of the itchy tendrils on his mouth, widening it further and grasping it with his teeth once more, jerking free the loop and removing his face from the binding while the first knot unraveled swiftly.  A brief disorientation brought by one of his boots slipping quickly down the wall was put to an end when he snapped his knee back up, pushing harder in repentance.  Tugging his left hand free was a simple matter, then, and he nipped with his teeth, prying with fingertips, until the second knot reluctantly was undone.  He wrapped his fingers around the end of the rope, holding tightly to it as his body threatened to buckle to the floor now that he was not being supported from above, and silently dropped his feet, catching his equilibrium before he released the rope.

        His wrists were numbed, miniscule stabs of pulsing needles tracing along his nerves as the blood flow slowly resumed, trickling down the insides of his wrists, and he massaged the coarsened skin there, pushing his thumb over the large arteries to stimulate activity.  The temptation to drift into a pleasanter sleep was strong, and he closed his eyes, hard, in a ridding manner that proved relatively successful, except for the growing desire to keep his eyes closed. 

        He crossed his arms several times in the front, arching them over his shoulders to stretch the taut muscles, and forced his eyes to stay open, rolling his head from one side to the other and popping the vertebrae with a series of cracks.  Crossing the floor, he checked the black bandana tied on his bicep directly below the rust-colored hem of his shirt, knowing the staining blood had come from a mild gash on his person and a much larger wound he had given to one of the pirates.  He knelt by the trio of swords, red, black, and white hilts exposed in the grated well of silver light piercing the dank shades of the hold, and he expertly picked them up from the floor; in a single fluid motion, he slipped each sheath through a sturdy loop sewn onto the leg of his dark pants, securing them and finding comfort in the familiar lopsided weight.

        His most important goal at the time being accomplished, he set his sights on questing out an exit of some sort, easily foregoing the question of whether or not he might be able to use the barred skylight above his head.  A tall man he might be, but he was by no means a giant, and it would certainly take a giant, as well as a ladder, to reach it.  Feeling along the wall his swords had been abandoned by, he felt around each smooth line between the airtight boards, prodding in case a line was unusually wide, and he was content with smirking dangerously as he felt a thicker border.  Fingers that continued the seeking motions dipped lower, sliding over the bulky, cooled metal of a hefty lock and twisting at it in curiosity only to be disappointed.

        The matter was easily remedied, however, as he drew one of the three blades at his side and complacently positioned it over the lock, sweeping the honed edge in a downward motion and thereby slicing off the lock.  It clattered to the hold's deck with a noisy cacophony of rings and jostled thumps, rolling about in an awkward circle as it slowly dwindled to a hesitant stop.  He merely sheathed the sword, fully aware he was a bit more prepared than he had been before, and calmly undid the bandana around his arm, tucking it over his naturally lime hair.  Knotting it at the back with a practiced tie, he exhaled in preparation and twisted all three swords from their clothed sheaths, placing one's slender hilt in his mouth and biting down with agile strength.

        Roronoa Zoro was free to expend vengeance of the bloodiest kind on those unfortunate enough to be on the same ship as he.

-

        The noisy drumming of hammers striking small nails was slowly fading from the town, most windows having been boarded up carefully and locks double-checked at various times during the past two days as the pirate ship drew closer and closer.  Ami stood in the layered, thinly spread dust of the wide road leading casually to the tranquil ocean lit like a pool of sapphires by the morning sun, and watched quietly the unmoving shape of the ship, wondering why it had stopped its progress.  As it was, the ship had come uncomfortably near the shore, still a respectable distance that she only felt the unpleasant anxiety of its halted motions.  "Why aren't you coming?" she murmured, allowing the first breeze of the morn to limply tousle her dark locks; it soon dwindled into a stifling nothing.  She, of course, did not want pirates to come to the small village, but she felt it would be easier than simply waiting continuously as it loomed, frozen, in the waves. 

        Shivering in the summer heat, she crossed her arms over her chest, wriggling her toes in irritation at the grimy dust lining her bared feet, and turned to walk back to the tavern positioned at the peak of the last hill before the road dove down to the glittering ocean.  "Mother," she called to the tall figure of her concerned mother where she waited restlessly in the opened door, "I don't think it's coming any closer." 

        "I almost wish they'd come already," responded Makoto with a forcibly bright smile, the kind with false bravado in it meant to reassure others.  "It'd be better than just sitting around and knowing they could come at any time."  Sighing, she stepped aside and ushered her small daughter into the lamp-lit room, the small squares of the windows boarded over by thick wood and the flimsy crimson curtains tugged together.  Little natural light pierced the confines, and the groups of people uneasily clustered within it were thrust into flame-traced shadows, faces hidden and obscured by the darkness.

        Feeling the hovering lack of comfort filtering amongst the villagers who had opted to leave their homes, Ami stayed still, lacing her fingers through one another and holding her clasped hands at her hips.  A few children glanced up and, strangely subdued for they understood something bad was present, they crooked tiny fingers at her in shy waves.  She nodded with a soft smile in recognition of their actions, and took her hands apart to touch Galid's arm as she strode past the round table he had chosen to sit at with his father.  He gave her a deeply worried expression, mirroring the pained one on his father's without fully realizing it, and latched his chubby fingers into the loose hem of her red jerkin, the sleeves brushing the inside of her wrists. 

        "Ami, can I sit with you?" he asked in a tiny voice, shooting his father a pleading look.  The man nodded, using the same forced smile her own mother had felt obligated to use, and Galid hopped off his chair, encircling her thigh with one arm and hooking his other arm around the sleeve he had previously clutched.  She glanced at his father and gave him a helpless look, feeling relief at his dismissing gesture and pulling the small boy gently with her to a corner booth.

        "Here we go, Galid," she said with all the gentility she could muster, and he released her to clamber onto the flat wooden seat, wriggling down its length to the corner.  "Are you okay?" continued she, sitting beside him and folding her arms over the rectangular table.  He fiddled with the curtain's folds, a small stream of light touching between cracks in the boards hastily erected over the cut window, and looked down, then at her.

        "Kinda scared," he admitted, whispering lowly, peeking behind the curtain and through the uneven cracks.  "Nobody'll tell me nothing 'bout the big boat," he added, twisting his hand in the fabric and facing the girl, deep eyes wrinkled into frightened questions sparkling with the light behind the counter.  "Is it bringing bad things?"

        She thought for a few moments, unsure how to respond, and opened her mouth, closing it and sucking a little on her lower lip as she considered his question.  "Pirates," said a familiar voice behind her shoulder, and she curved her frame away from the sheltering semicircle it had formed around the compact child.  Makoto smiled wanly, patting flour-dotted hands over the spotted green of her apron and leaning to kiss her daughter briefly on the cheek.  She sat on the seat opposing theirs, slipping down it until she was squarely facing both the pale face of Ami and the anxious one of the favored child, his head bobbing higher as he scooted his legs up to sit on his knees.  "The ship has pirates on it."

        "Pirates," he breathed, the anxious confusion giving way to romanticized expectation, his face transforming from his usual insecurity to an eagerly boyish expression.  "Are pirates really coming to our village?  With buried treasure an' everything?"  He all but bounced in his seat, gripping Ami's arm and beaming a gaze that switched from mother to daughter in excitement.

        "Yes," Makoto smiled at him, her brown eyebrows lifting with her cheeks as her lips curved, "pirates are coming to our village.  But mind that not all pirates are as fun as the tales might have you believe."  She straightened and adopted a serious look, laughing inside at the twin features of intrigue facing her, speaking carefully, "Many pirates do horrible things, Galid."  She knew it would embarrass her daughter for her undivided attention to be revealed, and so she kept from saying her name, though she had to bite her tongue with a secret smile.  "You shouldn't think them to be a good thing, you know."

        "I don't trust pirates at all," Ami declared in a quiet voice, flushing a little at her mother's amused look, and she smiled in rueful acknowledgement of her interest in the subject.  "When you get older," she looked at the rapt, shining face of Galid, who smiled at her and ducked his reddening cheeks into her sleeve, "you'll be able to hear about what they do to people.  They're brutal."

        "All things from the sea have a dual nature, though," interjected her graceful mother, sprawling her moderately wise eye over the pair of youths, one nearing her womanhood, the other not yet the age of four.  "Ocean beings can be either ferocious and deadly," and she paused, smiling distantly at a bittersweet memory, "or they can be joyous and gentle.  Some pirates, few though they are, are explosions of sound and laughter, taking everyone in with celebration and good will.  But you ought never make the mistake of thinking all are as kind."  Her smile faded, drifting into a sadder reflection of things gained and lost, and she shared a soft whisper with them, "And just like the tide, when they come, they must leave in time."

        Ami studied her face and, feeling Galid's curiosity merging with her own wondering, asked, wanting to know, "Mother, have pirates come here before?"

        "Once," came the answer, and Makoto's lips twirled up into a gentle smile.  "Led by a captain of dark red hair and one arm, the other missing from just above the elbow.  They were a rowdy group, and they only stayed a year before moving on to Grand Line," and here Galid gasped, recognizing the dark name associated with seas ridden by cruel things.  "He was a kind captain," she added absently, smiling one more time before standing and granting another kiss to Ami's turned cheek.  "Now, I need to feed these poor souls, dearie, and could you keep an eye on Galid for his father?"

        "Of course, Mother," Ami nodded, watching her mother's retreating back with bemused wonder, and she returned to staring at the fascinated Galid.  He grinned at her, an unbidden recovery from his typical shyness, and he pushed the curtain aside, pressing one eye to the lowest crack.  "Do you see something?" she asked without expecting an answer, shifting her shins onto the wood and leaning over him to peek through a higher crack.  The brilliant morning sun made it difficult to see little other than the glorious brightness that drowned out colors and shapes, and she blinked several times, hard, readjusting her position and squinting.  A dim shape was visible near the base of the hill, one that was both formless and blotted into a splotch of black, and she frowned minutely, trying to decide if it was one of the trees scattered in the loose soil near the sands or something entirely else.

        "Wow," he murmured, gasping in delight, and then he had slid beneath the table, tiny form easily lending itself to his chosen task.  She whirled around, nearly falling on her knees, and grasped futilely at the back of his sleeveless tunic, smacking her chin on the table painfully.  Tasting the copper liquid of blood trickling along the curves of her tongue, she moved to stand and follow him swiftly as he lithely ran for the windowless door. 

        His father reacted, startled, and demanded without thought, "Galid!  What are you doing?"  He abandoned the cup of thick tea he held and the newspaper spread out over the circled table, craning around the back of his chair to stare at his son, who paused for a moment at the door.

        "I'm gonna see the pirate!" he cried and twisted the doorknob, vanishing into the gold shafts of sunlight. 

        "Galid!" Ami yelled, somehow managing to avoid tripping over his father's chair as the man bolted upright, his face tightening with horrible fear.  "Galid, don't you dare take one step further!"  It was pointless, she realized as she left the tavern, escaping the preventive grip of the men inside who were aware of the folly of exiting.  She covered her eyes at the brightness, and when his father did not follow, she knew the men had restrained him, trying to keep him from the suicide of facing a hostile pirate.

        "Galid!" she screamed again, staggering a little in the direction of the downward slope as her pupils adjusted to the sudden influx of grand light.  Shaking her head determinedly, she pushed herself onward, digging her heels into the dirt for balance as she went down the growing slope, and she spotted the now walking figure of the small child, his head tilted as if in deeper fascination than earlier.  The spot at the bottom of the hill, she now saw, was moving up at a steady pace toward them, and it was definitely a man, though one clad in unusual garb.  "Galid, come back here!" she continued desperately, while absorbing his presence, one both menacing and yet not alarming.

        The tow-haired boy obediently stopped, shuffling around to face her and giving her a characteristically worried expression.  "He doesn't look like a pirate," he confessed as she jogged to him, kneeling before his tiny figure and pulling him protectively to her.  By no means was she an athlete so much as she was an intellect, and even the adrenaline-powered run had left her feeling a bit winded; the side of the hill leading from her window was steeper and therefore shorter, making it easier to climb down.  "Is he a bad man?"

        The tall man stopped perhaps twenty feet below them, or angled away from them, she would figure the semantics out later, and he had a trio of what seemed to be swords clasped to his thigh.  The sunlight made it difficult for her to tell if he was watching them, and so she kept Galid as well as herself very still, making sure to keep her eyes staring straight at him.  A black bandana wrapped around his head and the green haramaki sash wrapped widely around his waist struck her as being something she should recognize, but she kept from worrying too hard about it, setting a part of her brain aside to mull over it as she watched him undo the bandana.  Mint green hair was exposed to the day and she loosened her grip on Galid enough for him to twist about in her arms, watching with great curiosity as the man calmly set aside the small bag he held and tied firmly the bandana over his arm. 

        It had to be done, she supposed, as she called out in a quavering voice, mind riddled with images of whispered darkness and spilt blood, "Who are you?"  The words hung in the air with a heady finality, sealing their fate one way or another, and the man quite obviously looked at her and the boy still held in her arms, tanned skin set to glowing by the sun's amber rays.  Swallowing deeply, as if a thick swab of cotton had swollen in her throat, she pushed out to the lean danger, "Are you a pirate or someone else?"

        He lifted the knotted bag and, giving her one more piercing look, quickly pulled free the heavy knot, limber fingers working between the loops and curls.  A note of dread sounded sharply in her head as a single name came free from the shadowy bonds of forgetfulness, her eyes widening while her mouth dried and her lungs grew heavy, and he spoke in a deep voice.  "I am Roronoa Zoro," and she jerked Galid's face to her, hugging his features into the dip of her inner shoulder, knowing all ready what he was reaching for within the bag's swollen interior.  She saw one swift glimpse of the severed requirement for collecting a bounty, the red-streaked gleam of exposed bone, before she averted her eyes, one hand weaving through the delicate blonde hairs on the boy's head.

        "My apologies," he said bluntly and she slowly looked at him, strands of blue-lighted hair tossed clumsily over her deep blue eyes.  He stuffed what he held in a bloodstained hand back into the bag, swiftly retying the bag's woven mouth and tossing it over his rust-shaded shoulder, the sleeve's peak stained with old crimson liquid.  Ami lifted her head higher, a single strand of hair lining the lower swell of her mouth, and she forced her gaze to remain strong as he crossed the distance between the three, although she felt a frightened lump in her throat.

        He crouched beside her, obsidian eyes focused on her, and a thousand by-word-of-mouths stretched through her mind as a string of blackened pearls around a cruel queen's neck.

        "I heard he killed a man for--"

        "He's coated in blood!  Why, he's slain more men than any pirate--"

        "--and they say he's forged swords from precious metals stolen from--"

        "--a demon!  That Roronoa Zoro is a damned monster from hell!"

        Galid made a snorting sound, snapping her free of the clawed rumors, and she, perplexed, looked down to see one of the most dangerous bounty hunters alive had poked the child squarely in his ribs, sparking the tickle reflex every young child seemed to carry.  "Hey, kid," he rumbled and she thought he spoke to the boy she clutched to her chest until he gave her a penetrating glance, "I think small one here needs to breathe."  He jabbed a thumb at the back of his head and she gasped in mortified surprise, cheeks flushing with scarlet puffs as she let go of the tiny figure.

        "Oofta!" commented Galid as he stumbled back, falling onto the pair of large knees behind him and simultaneously sneezing violently, his head jerking forward a little.  Staring up into the formidable face all but glaring at him, he screwed up his courage and coughed weakly, "I hadta sneeze."  As if to make sure the full implication of his words came through, he clamped one small hand over his nose and echoed the previous impulse with a more shallow sneeze.

        The man known as Roronoa Zoro grinned, then, a quirky little expression of dry humor, and strong hands encircled the much smaller ones of Galid, quickly and efficiently yanking him to his feet.  Startled, he stumbled once more, this time wrapping his thin arms about her trim waist and catching his balance awkwardly.  He pulled away a little, met the hundreds of bewildered emotions crossing his beloved friend's face with her split pink lips, and chirruped happily, "He's neat!"

        "Out of the mouths of babes," the clover-haired man remarked dryly, and he stood, sweeping the dust off the front of his black pants and holding his one clean hand out for her to grasp and pull herself up with.  Hesitating and still feeling twinges of fear, she did so, pulling her hand from his far larger one as soon as she was on her bare feet.  "And now that I've given you a crappy first impression, take me to the collection office."  His tone offered no argument or reply, and the grin mingled with sarcastic amusement quickly fell to its premature death.

        She murmured to Galid for him to go back to the tavern and stay there, and then stood straighter, releasing him and watching him run back in a short run to the featureless building naked, even, of a sign proclaiming its dominance as tavern.  "Go up the hill," she said in a careful voice, making sure to avoid eye contact, "and past the first three buildings, starting with the one directly past the top of the hill.  The collection office is the fourth one, and it's painted sort of gold."  That said, she hurried to follow after Galid's vanished form, clasping her arms around her middle as she jogged for fear her lungs would burst from her chest as the worry ate into a threatening position.

-

        On general principle, Yaters Jol was fond of his job, simple as it was, and the simplicity of it was what had drawn him to it in the first place; never once had it let him down and brought complications to his admittedly bland lifestyle.  The people who lived in the village used a barter system when they wanted goods, nearly each family supported by a store of some sort that had periodic bursts of growth whenever a ship docked at port.  While he was not anywhere close to elated about the proximity of the pirate ship, he also knew the collection office's stores would be plundered anyway, so he went to work, set the inside of the store up by lighting the array of large lamps along the walls, and left the bounty images without taking them off after a moment of thought.  His store's wide window, one of four glass windows in the village, had been boarded over the first day on both outside and inside, for the glass was a rare thing for their small town to use in anything other than a lamp or essential commodities.

        Somehow, he had not truly expected anyone to throw the door open and stride in, and he was left staring when someone did so, his glasses frozen in the hand he was using his shirt tail to sweep over the bifocal panes.  Hastily thumbing his spectacles back on, wrinkling his nose to obtain better purchase and thereby clearer vision, he asked timidly, "Yes?  May I help you?"  The man opposing him had hair the color of wild mint and a slightly irritated look on his wind tanned face, giving Jol the sort of expression that informed him plainly that he wouldn't have entered if he didn't want assistance of some sort.

        A marginally heavy bag was dumped onto the counter, a hand-done knot smacking with a dulled thump against the polished wood, and he stared at it just as blankly as he had the man, unsure of what to make the clothed contents out as.  "Bounty," the man said brusquely, and he slowly peeked up and over the edges of his bifocals, quickly spotting details he had bypassed glimpsing before.  "Pirate El'jone, his crew's still out on the ship in the harbor.  They won't be coming to shore, so I recommend you send some men out to get them if you don't want them escaping out to sea."

        "Oh," said Jol faintly, his face paling considerably and a bead of sweat dotting the shaggy brown hair receding day by day from his forehead.  "A bounty."  The lined green sash wrapped expertly around the man's waist was a note added to the perception of the ebony bandana tied about the man's arm, and the three swords added a sense of triumphant alarm to his mind.  Snapping his head up, he opened his mouth a few times in an attempt to regain the voice that had apparently taken voluntary leave of him.  "R-Roronoa Zoro?" he finally squeaked, the bead of sweat dripping down the curves of his face as another set popped up from the higher pores.

        "I think I'd like the bounty now," replied the bounty hunter with something verging on temper-accented impatience, his jaw working irritatedly.  "If you don't mind," and he gave him a particularly nasty smile.

        "Oh, of course, yes, yes," the man behind the counter stammered, hastily shifting his attention to the bundle and clawing the knot apart with trembling fingers that continued to clumsily fail at his efforts.  A moment passed with him sweating and the man glowering, until the bag's mouth came open in a fall of whispering burlap.  He steeled his nerves and gingerly pinched the cloth apart, smelling the strong odor of sickly sweet blood and spotting the rather grimly decapitated head, and he smashed the bag's mouth closed.  "Are you going to kill me?" he asked in a rather faint voice.

        "No," he replied slowly, the sort of tone that suggested he was answering an extraordinarily stupid question, "I'm not going to kill you." 

        "Because, please, I don't want to die," Jol continued, begging and wringing his hands together while imagining all the gruesome things certainly about to befall him, "I-I have a wife, Margie, and we don't have any kids, but I can't die, why would you kill me?"

        "I'm not," the man enunciated clearly, almost grinding his teeth from the angry impatience tinting his face, "going - to - kill - you."

        "You can take all the money I have," he felt he had to add, the compulsion melting with the veritable wave of sweat cascading down his face, "just, I'm begging you, don't kill me, I--urk!"

        The man's hand tightened its grip around the front of Jol's collar, twisting and pulling the cloth up in a manner that was rather effective in shutting him up, his breathing stifled by the presence of the knuckles pressing in a manner that was blatantly intimidating against the skin right beneath his jugular.  "I am not going to goddamn kill you!" he roared, and Jol squeaked a second time.  "I just want the bounty, and I don't need your breed of idiot making it harder!"

        Jol came overwhelmingly close to sobbing, pleading again without putting thought behind his words, "I don't want to die!"  This came just as a shrill woman's voice demanded from the back, "Jol, if I have to come up there, so help me, I will personally ensure you--"

        He made an incredible recovery, swiftly pulling himself free of the bounty hunter's grip, which was somewhat similar to being clamped around the chest and neck by an astonishingly large steel brace, and he straightened his glasses.  His face grew dry, though still clammy from the perspiration, and he was the image of prosperous business, quickly referencing the spiraled book of bounties listed in the weekly mailed book meant to determine if the head brought in was indeed the pirate claimed, if the head had already been claimed by someone else, and how many bellies it was worth.  "Pirate Captain El'jone, worth two million bellies," he said coolly and the man gave him the same look of doubting his sanity he had before, taking the coins Jol placed into a moderate cloth bag.

        "And what an exaggeration that was," he muttered, tucking the bag of coins into a sufficiently camouflaged pocket in his pants.  "Couldn't fight his way out of a bag, the idiot.  Which way to the village tavern?"

        "Big building at the top of the hill," he replied automatically to the bounty hunter with a short temper, who nodded and, bare of anything in his hands or over his shoulder, shoved his way through the door.  Once the door clicked back into place, banishing away the remaining presence of the swordsman, Jol slid to the floor, breathing hard and wiping at the sweat that returned to his pudgy features.  "I thought for sure he was going to kill me," he shuddered.

---

---

        Feedback:  Oo!  For me?  Yay!  *huggles readers*

        Disclaimer:  I own a Zoro plushie and a Mercury plushie, but not the characters themselves.

        Notes:  Not sure I like how this chapter came out…but I did like Zoro talking to the shopkeeper.  :]  Oh, and just so you know, when people in the One Piece world have more than one name (which isn't often, according to character bios…), it's written in the Japanese form, with last name first.  Usually.

        Replies:  Bloody Vixen, who I left out by accident last time; my apologies, ma'am.  And I used Makoto/Lita, too, but this fic is supposed to focus only on two characters.  Although I am tossing around the idea of an OP/SM fic with Sanji and Rei…Myst Lady, many thanks, always love your flattery *winks*, and it is a pity that there aren't many Ami fics around (and I do like Usagi, but Naoko Takeuchi's Usagi and the Usagi of some talented writers out there, as most people turn her into a serious, all-powerful Supergirl in the crossover section, thereby killing the sweetly innocent girl that she is in continuity).  Glad you like 'Requiem for Rain,' I know I certainly do.  Mistress of Ice, who I now must glomp for being such a doll, as always.  (Please don't call me –sama!  My Muse – who does /no/ Muse-like things – will hurt me…and I wanna be –chan!  "cause…I'm weird like that…yeah…I'll shut up now…)  And last, but not least, Devils Little Doll, I'm trying to keep up the good work (am I succeeding?  Please say yes!  *proceeds to beg*).  I'm really pleased you like it!  :]  Everyone's support is appreciated, and you all get chibi-Zoro dolls!  Even the people who have no idea who he is…*sweatdrops*

        One Piece:  *insert hefty German accent, because I am /not/ typing it out*  Ah, yes…because I want my readers to at least know what Roronoa Zoro looks like.  Both pictures are hosted at Rum, Buggery & the Lash, which isn't the best site to go to for character info and such forth, but it's one of the funniest One Piece sites out there.  (For the best info on-line, check out , also known as Destination Paradise.)

        The first pic is at , and it's an anime pic of the original crew (before Chopper enters and all). The guy with the green hair in the lower right hand corner is Roronoa Zoro (without his bandana on his head).

        : manga pic with the same characters, plus Chopper, and it has Zoro looking rather pissed off at Sanji (the blonde guy smokin').