He sat on his knees, his hands pressed into the stone floor, blood pooling around him. His breathing was rapid, uneven, and matted hair hung in chunks over one eye. He coughed, more blood splattering onto the ground.
Sanji wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting there. The gory wound on the left side of his head made it a little hard to think clearly. He was fairly certain that his left ankle was shattered, and therefore useless. His right leg was numb all the way down to his toes, and he couldn't move to any other position to check for damage without searing pain shooting through his entire body. He was stuck there.
He slowly turned his head, scanning the desolate area for any signs of life, not that he could do anything about it if he found anyone. His vision was blurred, but he was sure he saw the top of a yellow straw hat off in the distance. He tried to move his left leg out from under himself, to stand up or at least get to a crawling position, but he immediately felt a sensation much like the feeling of someone ripping his foot slowly off.
Sanji tried again with his right leg. It felt awkward and heavy, like it didn't belong to him, but he managed to get it in front of him, and he pushed hard with it to stand up. He leaned completely on it, for any pressure at all on the left ankle was simply too painful. He dragged himself toward the straw hat.
Every step was unbearable, and in the feverish delirium of his wounded state, he tried to look around himself for any signs of his other crewmates. Please, he thought, Please let Nami-san be alive.
The minute the Straw Hat Pirates had landed on the shore of a new island, they realized something was terribly wrong. The buildings and houses were made of strange steel material, but everything was in ruins. It looked as if some great and terrible battle had taken place there, as though a horrible yet profound chapter in history had occurred on the very soil they stood on. Sanji remembered feeling a dread in the air, and instinctively lit up a fresh cigarette. He had looked over to Nami and watched her wrap her arms around herself, knowing that she could sense something too.
Not a second passed before a massive explosion swept across the island, scattering the crew and leaving Sanji in a bloody mess on the opposite shore. Being as injured as he was, he could only wonder what had befallen his friends. His only hope was to find them and carry them back onto the ship, though he had no idea how he would accomplish that in his condition.
His attention was currently focused on the yellow straw hat in the distance. Perhaps Luffy was simply asleep, and if he woke him up, he'd be more capable of finding the others. Luffy was too durable to be badly injured in an explosion, no matter how powerful it was.
There was a ringing in Sanji's ears as he pressed forward, limping slowly. His head was aching, spinning. He tried to think about Luffy, about that hat, about finding the others. But his mind couldn't help but drift to the question of exactly what had happened. What had caused the explosion? What kind of island was this?
He suddenly remembered Nami spreading her map out on the table after dinner the evening before. She pointed one delicate finger at an oddly shaped island. "This is Mirror Island, supposedly one of the most dangerous places along the Grand Line. Legend has it that the moment you step onto the shore…"
Sanji's memory of what she said after that was blank. He struggled to remember, to know more about this terrible place, but his head was throbbing. It seemed like a black shroud had been draped over his mind. Something had been shut out, but what?
He pressed forward. He had to concentrate on finding his friends. That was all that mattered now. They could figure out the hows and whys later. He pressed through the pain, trying to close his mind to the agony festering up and down his left leg. He wiped sticky blood from his face and tried to ignore the soreness building up in his over-used right leg.
Within minutes, he passed over a slope in the dirt and found Luffy spread across the ground, his hat covering his face. Sanji immediately dropped to his knees beside Luffy, momentarily loosing his breath from the shock of pain that very movement sent through his body. He moved the hat and looked down into his friend's face. Luffy's eyes were closed, and he appeared to be asleep. Sanji sighed.
"Luffy," he called, shaking the boy, "Wake up!"
There was no response, which wasn't entirely unusual.
Sanji shook him again. "Wake up, you idiot! We've been attacked!"
There was still no response, and Sanji's anger rose. He slapped Luffy through the face. "Wake up! I don't even know where the others are! Nami-san might be…"
Sanji couldn't bear to finish the sentence, couldn't bear to let that thought seep into his brain. He shook Luffy more violently, desperate to get a reaction. Suddenly Luffy's body rolled over, and Sanji froze, letting his hands slip from Luffy's shoulders.
In Luffy's back, positioned perfectly to go straight through Luffy's heart, was a steel rod. The blood was nearly invisible upon Luffy's shirt, but the puddle of it beneath him made no attempt to hide. Sanji stared at the lifeless body with horror, a sick, desperate realization washing over him in tides. Luffy was dead. Their wonderful stupid hyperactive captain was dead. If Luffy hadn't survived, how could anyone else have? There was no hope left.
Sanji carefully rolled Luffy's body back over, to look at his face. He looked so peaceful. Another memory ran through Sanji's mind involuntarily. Luffy had fallen asleep on deck on a very cold night. Snow had heaped up on top of Luffy's prized hat. Sanji had removed his coat and spread it across his captain, then dusted off the hat. Afterwards, he wondered why he did such a thing. His chivalry was usually reserved for pretty ladies, but he felt something deep and strange for Luffy, a need to protect and serve this boy who had given him the chance to pursue his dreams. Luffy wasn't a normal person. He was special.
Sanji could feel salty tears dripping down his cheeks. He didn't cry often, in fact could only remember two or three times in his life when he did cry, but now was not the time to be ashamed of his feelings. He fell across Luffy's body, his bloody hands clutching Luffy's shirt. He reached over and took Luffy's hat, blindly putting it on. He felt numb, blank. Everything was gone. Everything was over. He'd never make it off the island alive. What was the point of going on? In the corner of his eye, he saw another steel beam a couple of feet to his right. The edge of it was very sharp. How easy would it be to simply slit his own throat with it?
Just as he braced himself to attempt getting up, one more memory came back to him. Zoro was standing beside him on the deck, and fog was all around him. "Mirror Island," Zoro had said, staring into the distance, "I wonder what kind of place it is."
Sanji had been unimpressed with the excitement laced within Zoro's tone.
Usopp walked up behind them. He was trembling. "I… I think I'll stay with the ship… you know… take care of it while you guys are looking around."
Nami had thrown an arm around him. "Don't worry. It isn't as bad as it seems. Remember what I told you about the legend? Just make sure you keep it in mind, and you'll be fine."
Usopp had swallowed hard and nodded. Nami looked at Zoro and Sanji. "You guys remember too, alright? Don't forget! It's very important!"
Luffy was grinning, trying to see through the fog. "I won't forget either!" he said.
Sanji shook his head, blood dripping from his face. What was he supposed to remember? What did he forget? It was something vital… something that could potentially save them all. Something…
Finally, he forced something to open in his mind. Nami's voice rang out loud and clear. "Legend has it that the moment you step onto the shore, you'll be swamped with hallucinations. Mirror Island is famous for 'mirroring' your worst fears and making you live them out. The idea is that you'll end up committing suicide in your despair. It's a very clever trick left behind by someone who didn't want anyone to get any closer to finding One Piece. But as long as you remember that none of it is real, you should be able to wake up from the hallucination and be fine."
Another second passed and Sanji opened his eyes. Luffy, Nami, and Usopp were all staring down at him, looking concerned. He sat up quickly, and dizziness washed over him. He put a hand to his forehead. "What happened?" he asked.
Luffy laughed. "You fell for it."
Nami frowned at Luffy. "It's not funny, Luffy. He could have been in real danger." She looked back at Sanji. "You were hallucinating for a long time. We were worried you wouldn't wake up."
Usopp smiled. "We're glad you're okay though. We tried to wake you up, but nothing would work."
Luffy spoke up, "Nami even tried kissing you, and that didn't work either."
Sanji blinked. "Really?!"
Nami looked a little embarrassed. "Well, just a peck, but you weren't even conscious so it doesn't matter."
Sanji looked around. They were sitting on the deck of the ship. Zoro was standing in the corner. "What took you so long to wake up? Even Usopp realized it was an illusion before you did."
Sanji narrowed his eyes. "And I suppose you didn't fall for it for a second?"
Zoro nodded. "Only weak minds would fall for that."
Nami sighed. "It has nothing to do with being weak or strong. It depends on how strongly what you see affects your mind. If what you see is truly your deepest fear, it can cloud your thought processes, or so I've heard."
Luffy leaned in close to Sanji. "So what did you see?" he asked.
Sanji suddenly felt awkward. The memory of seeing Luffy's dead body was a painful one, but he was somewhat embarrassed by how he had cradled Luffy. And he wondered, if what he saw was his greatest fear, why was it Luffy, and not Nami, that he saw dead?
Sanji decided that was a question for another day. For now, he was happy to be alive and well, and even happier to see his friends safe. They were fine. Luffy was fine. Everything was alright. He smiled at his captain. "What I saw? Just something that'll never, ever happen."