Written By: Smerph Greenfox
Disclaimer: All characters, unless otherwise noted, are copyright of Eiichiro Oda.
Chapter 21: My Chef
"Table, party of one." Patty said through gritted teeth. As he approached the table, his demeanor changed considerably. He put on a ridiculous smile and shouted cheerfully.
"Welcome to the Baratie, squid face!" He yelled. His heart was in the right place, but his style could use work. The next thing he said was "Let's talk about how you'll pay!"
The guest reached calmly into his pocket and withdrew a revolver. He pointed the gun directly at Patty's head and whispered "Do you take lead?"
Patty didn't even flinch. He had faced people like this ever since he started working here. "No, I can't say we do."
The customer squeezed the trigger slowly. Patty raised his massive arms above his head. Before the trigger could be squeezed all the way, Patty brought his arms down, crashing over the man's head. The force of the blow shattered the wooden chair underneath him. The man struggled to his feet, but to no avail.
"If you can't pay, you ain't no customer!" Patty roared, grabbing the man by his jacket and throwing him out of the door. "Customers are a restaurant's lifeblood!"
Whoever he was, he sailed out and landed on the restaurant's deck. The doors swung closed and Patty turned to the restaurant-goers. "Our lovely guests, enjoy the rest of your meals!" He yelled, curtseying.
Everyone resumed eating. This was a regular occurrence in the Baratie, and its customers knew it. The restaurant floated dangerously close to the Grand Line's entrance, so rogue pirates and bandits were nothing new.
Luffy turned to where Sanji was standing earlier, and found that he wasn't there.
"Eh? Where'd Sanji go?" He asked no one in particular. He began wandering off. He had something he needed to ask of the blonde-haired chef. Looking throughout the restaurant, Luffy aimlessly wandered in and out of rooms, ignoring every patron who attempted to call him over.
He eventually found Sanji outside the Baratie, talking to the man Patty had kicked out earlier.
A few minutes earlier, when Sanji had first disappeared, the would-be robber stumbled to the shambled ship he used to get to the Baratie.
"Oi." He heard a smooth, bored voice behind him. He turned around to see the blonde chef with a new cigarette in his mouth and a tray of fried rice in his hand.
He gasped, snatching the bowl from Sanji and devoured it, noisily. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he ate. "Delicious! Fantastic! Better than I deserve!"
"So it's good?" Sanji asked, his eyes shining. "It's just a bunch of leftovers."
"To make such a fantastic meal…" the robber trailed off.
Sanji leaned with his back against the ship's railing and took a drag off of his cigarette. "It's not in me to let someone starve at sea. Whoever they are, wherever they came from, no one deserves to die starving." He explained.
Luffy took this opportunity to make his presence known. "OI! There you are!" He shouted. He was currently leaning over the railing of the Baratie's second floor, staring down at the chef and the prisoner. He wasted no time with his next statement. "Hey, cook! Come be my chef!"
Sanji coughed as an unexpected gasp of air took in more smoke from his cigarette than he intended. "I'm… Sorry?" He coughed between words.
Luffy jumped down from the railing, stumbling as he miscalculated the fall and landed on his stomach. Without missing a beat, he picked himself back up and grinned. "I said come be the chef on my pirate crew."
"Not a chance." Sanji replied almost instantly. "I've still got work to do here. I refuse."
Luffy crossed his arms and grunted. "NO! I refuse!"
"I refuse your refusal! I already decided that you'd be my chef and that's that!" Luffy said with determination.
"It… It doesn't work like that…" Sanji mumbled.
The man stared at Luffy, wide-eyed. "Did you say you're a pirate?"
Luffy turned to him and proudly gestured to himself with his thumb. "You bet! Monkey D. Luffy is my name, and I'm going to be the Pirate King!"
"I'm Gin, one of the pirates on Don Krieg's ship. You say your aim is to be the Pirate King?" Gin finally introduced himself.
"Of course! It's been my dream for a long time!" Luffy shouted loudly.
Gin didn't seem impressed. "You can't have much of a crew if you're still looking for a chef."
Luffy pointed to Sanji with his thumb. "This guy makes five."
"OI, DON'T INCLUDE ME!" Sanji roared, delivering a kick to Luffy's head.
Gin stared intently at Luffy. "Listen to me." He said solemnly. "Give up on that goal. Don't go to the Grand Line." He put his head in his hands and began sweating. "With such a small crew, you wouldn't stand a chance. I've been there. The sea is devastating. It will devour you! Just give up now!" By now he was shaking and breathing heavily. "THAT PLACE IS NOTHING BUT A GRAVEYARD!!"
Luffy didn't say anything for a while. A smile began creeping along his face. He lowered his head, letting his straw hat shade his eyes.
"Sounds like fun." Luffy whispered quietly. "I can't wait to go there."
Gin's eyes widened. "Can't… wait to go there? Didn't you hear me?"
Luffy shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, I heard you. Doesn't matter, though. I said I would go to the Grand Line and that's that."
Gin gasped. Slowly, he began chuckling. "Well… Good luck. You'll need it. A lot of it." He looked over the railing and saw the small boat he stole to get from his prison ship to the Baratie. Without warning, he stood up and leaned onto the railing, forcing himself overboard and landed safely in his only means of transportation.
"Thanks for the meal, chef! Hope you don't catch too much flak for giving me a free meal!" He called out to Sanji.
"Free meal?" Sanji asked, laughing. He kicked the plate and silverware off the deck and into the ocean. "Where's the proof?"
With that, Gin began rowing to wherever it was he was going.
Sanji watched him for a few seconds, then turned around and grabbed Luffy's arm. "Come on, shitty help. We've got work to do inside."
For the next few days, Luffy struggled to do a passable job as a chef's assistant. He still swiped food, still broke dishes, and still mixed up orders. And his crew still laughed at him for it.
Sanji had taken an interest in Kuina. Over those past few days, he tried his best to woo her, but she usually didn't pay attention. One instance in particular led to a violent situation.
"OH, MY BEAUTIFUL KUINA-CHAN! I'D FOLLOW YOU TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!! I'D GO SO FAR AS TO BE A PIRATE IF IT MEANT BEING NEAR YOU!!" Sanji shouted to deaf ears.
Someone, however, did hear him say that. Zeff had just emerged from the kitchen just as Sanji started his rant of love.
"Izzat so? Well, go on. Be a pirate. I don't need you here anymore. All you do is drag this restaurant down. Your cooking is absolutely atrocious."
Sanji responded with a kick to Zeff's jaw that sent the old man flying into an empty table.
"Shut the hell up, shitty old man! Don't you EVER insult my cooking!" He roared.
Meanwhile, Gin had finally managed to make his way back to his crew, finding it to be in shambles.
"Don Krieg, was this really the work of the Grand Line? All this damage? It's worse than I remember…" He asked his captain, sitting proudly at an enormous, ornate throne aboard the crew's flagship.
Don Krieg's body was hidden by poor lighting, but his massive figure still managed to overpower everything else in the room. Slowly, he rested his head on his hand. "Indeed." He spoke with a low, gravelly voice. "That vicious sea destroyed much of our fleet while you were away. It's a miracle in of itself that we can still sail."
Gin smiled. "Well, Captain. I have something that may interest you. I know the location of the Baratie, a massive ship that doubles as a restaurant! A cook there saved me when I was near death. I'll take you there, Don Krieg! Let me lead the way and save this army!" He said, his eyes shining.
It was difficult to tell, but Krieg's lips curled into a sinister smirk. "Very well, my loyal subordinate. Tell us our path."
TO BE CONTINUED
Smerph: All right, time for an announcement! As some of you may have noticed, my style of writing reflects the terms and translations used primarily by the fansub group Kaizoku-Fansubs. Well, ever since I started watching FUNimation's fantastic dubbing work and playing One Piece: Unlimited Adventure, I've come to realize that I'm actually preferring the English voices over the Japanese ones! What this means is that I'm going to stop inserting random Japanese words into my chapters, stop using Japanese honorifics, and stop leaving most attacks untranslated. Upon rereading my chapters, I discovered how awkward it sounded when I read something like "GOMU GOMU NO… MUCCHI! (Whip)". Really, "GUM GUM WHIP!" works just as well and flows a lot nicer. However, don't be disheartened. I'm not going to start using "Zolo" or "Portgaz D. Trace" on you! And yes, Sanji will still smoke and still say "shit" a lot.
And yes, I'll continue to use the word "nakama". I mean, after all, it is a rather important word to the One Piece universe. I'm always striving to be a better writer, so if you've got any suggestions on where else I can improve, lemme know.