- Between The Lines-

A One Piece Fanfic by Digitaldreamer

Chapter One: Welcome to Kinzoku

Hello all! Long time no see, ne? It's been awhile since I posted a multichapter fic. I hope I'm not too rusty.

Anyway, hello and welcome to my latest project, Between the Lines. I'm Digitaldreamer, and some of you may know me as the author behind Dominoes. For those of you fans returning from that, welcome back and I hope I can meet your expectations/ For those of you who are checking out my works for the first time, welcome! I hope you like what you see and you'll come back for more!

Right, so this fanfic is going to be drastically different from my usual work. Most of my multichaptered works are of the angst category, in fact to many I'm known only for being good in that category because that's all I write. I do enjoy writing in that genre, but I don't want to be known as "that emo ZoLu author who writes some pretty good torture scenes". I hope to at least be known for more than that...thus, I decided to try something new. ;

This fic is meant to feel sort of like something that would actually fit into the series. If it goes as planned, I'm hoping it'll have the feel of an arc in the anime or one of the movies. If it doesn't go as planned...well, I have no idea what monster I've unleashed. This is my first time attempting a fic of this sort, so I really hope it turns out alright. Critiques are greatly appreciated, since this is my first time at writing a fic that doesn't involve Luffy bleeding massive amounts of blood and/or having amnesia or something of that sort.

The story will, hopefully, have a bit of everything. Mostly the main genres are action/adventure and romance, though there's likely to be a bit of everything else. Hopefully I'll be able to avoid as much angst as possible, but of course no fic of mine is complete if I'm not torturing some character so I can't promise anything.

The pairings will be Zoro/Luffy and Sanji/Nami. Yes, that does mean there will be het, sorry all but I happen to like that pairing. If you don't, please don't whine about it, you can easily ignore it.

I do believe that's all...man, I'm really nervous. Well, without furthur ado, let's get this show on the road!

Obligatory Disclaimer: Does anyone even ever read these? I mean, seriously, I highly doubt Eiichiro Oda is going to read my fic and sue me for using his characters, he's got a manga to draw. But if only to put my mind at ease, I do not own One Piece or any of it's characters. However, the plot, setting, and various characters are mine, so please do not steal without permission. Credit goes to Charlett for letting me use her idea for the island, and WishingForMyWings for unintentionally giving me the plot bunny. Cheers.

---

Roronoa Zoro was a terrifying man. Or at least, that's probably what most would think of him. He did, after all, have a sixty million belli bounty on his head and was formerly known all throughout the world as a demon. Of course, if one had seen the swordsman in action they would definitely agree...for the few seconds they were still living, at any rate. His skill with his personal fighting style, Santouryuu, was legendary, and his notorious deeds as a bounty hunter and one of Straw Hat Pirates more legendary still.

Indeed, if you asked anyone, they would tell you Zoro was a terrible man...unless you asked anyone who actually knew him. They'd probably tell you he was a lazy ass who did nothing but sleep all day and never help on the ship and only got up to lift damnably heavy weights while certain people aboard the ship were trying to get their beauty sleep. And then another would agree and babble something about how "Nami-san is so wonderful when she's righteously bashing that idiot!"

Of course, they wouldn't all say that...but at the current moment, the green-haired swordsman was hardly doing anything to prove that particular claim wrong.

He was in fact, sleeping, propped with his back against the mast of the Going Merry. His swords were placed carefully next to him, one tanned, muscular arm casually draped around them. The warm afternoon sun shone upon him from the clear blue sky, gulls calling to each other in the air above. The waves beat rhymatically against the sides of the ship and for a very rare moment all seemed peaceful.

Then of course someone stood in front of him, effectively blocking out his sun. If the swordsman didn't notice that, he certainly noticed when he was suddenly poked several times in the forehead.

"Oi! Come on Zoro, wake up! Wake up! We're finally here!" Silence for a few seconds and a pause in the assault to his head. "Come on, wake up!" The poking continued with more force than before, making it rather difficult to ignore.

Zoro scowled as he cracked open one eye to glare up at his captain. "Here?" He repeated, brow furrowing under the finger still pressed against it.

Luffy simply beamed and nodded, the excitement clear in his eyes even with the shadow cast over them by the battered straw hat for which the crew was named. "Yeah, yeah! We're finally at the island Nami was talking about, remember?" He asked, clearly only just stopping himself from jumping up and down with excitement as he spoke.

The swordsman frowned. "You mean Kinzoku?" He asked, the name Nami had mentioned sounding strange on his tongue. She had been been talking about it at dinner the night before and Luffy had of course been thrilled, but he hadn't really been paying attention.

"Yeah, yeah, that one! Come on, we're finally here! Get up, get up! Oooh, wait 'til you see it!" Luffy babbled, his manner reminding Zoro quite a bit of a puppy excited about going on a walk.

Zoro sighed as he stood, stretching his arms above his head and cracking his neck. He never really cared much when they came to a new island, for him it was just a chance to maybe get some booze. But Luffy was always so excited, and he would be lying if he said seeing the boy happy didn't at least make him a bit happy in turn. Luffy just had that effect on him, something no one else could ever manage. "Alright, alright, I'm coming." He muttered, taking a few steps forward before pausing, his eyes widening. Just beyond the rather ordinary docks and some warehouses was...something he had definitely never seen before.

The buildings were huge! They towered above everything else with more stories than he had ever seen, looming high in the sky to invade the perfect blue with their many feet of shimmering, polished stone and metal. They were towering masterpieces of marble and glass, the windows gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. They dotted the skyline, filling the space with other tall buildings and many smaller ones as well could be seen just below the tree line. Every tree was green and full, and the hot sun made it rather clear that this place was a summer island.

"Isn't it awesome?" Luffy's very loud voice suddenly blared in Zoro's ear.

The swordsman let out a cry of surprise and jumped back a foot, covering his now aching ear. "Gah! Luffy, how many times have I told you to not yell in my ear like that?" He growled, fixing a glare at the younger teen.

Luffy apparently didn't hear him, as he had already latched onto Zoro's wrist and started dragging the swordsman towards the side of the ship. "Come on, hurry! I wanna go see what the rest of it looks like!"

"Gah! Luffy, hang on for a sec--" Zoro was cut off as the boy's sandaled foot caught on a piece rope that had been haphazardly put away, sending the boy reeling backwards with a yelp. Fortunately, as Zoro was right behind him, the swordsman easily caught the boy around the waist, Luffy's head falling back to be cushioned by his chest.

The two stayed like that for a moment, Luffy glancing up at Zoro and blinking, his lips pursed together in innocent confusion. Zoro gazed back, eyes widened a bit, feeling his cheeks heat up slightly from the close contact. Then his eyes narrowed. "I told you to slow down." He chastised. "I swear, you're even more klutzy than usual, what's up with you?"

Luffy just giggled and beamed up at him. "Nee hee, sorry Zoro. I'll be more careful next time."

The swordsman rolled his eyes as he set the boy on his feet and stepped back, glancing away from the boy's face and trying to ignore the way everything seemed a good ten degrees warmer. "Whatever. Just--"

"Oi! Luffy, is Zoro dead up there or what?" Nami's voice came from the dock, sounding annoyed. Luffy cast a glance over the railing at the ginger-haired navigator, whom was tapping her foot impatiently. "Hurry up already!"

"Yeah, Marimo, get up and stop making Nami-san wait!" Sanji called from his place next to the girl where he was lighting a cigarette.

"We do need to get moving if we want to get there and see the city and still get back here by nightfall." Robin stated, though her sky-blue eyes twinkled with amusement as her raven-black hair blew in the breeze.

"Oh! I wanna see the city, I wanna see the city!" Chopper exclaimed excitedly.

"Are you sure, Chopper? That is the home of the Three-horned Snargle Monster." Usopp warned. "I hear they really like the taste of venison..."

The reindeer let out a squeak of fear, his hooves shooting up to cover his mouth.

"But don't worry! I, the Great Captain Usopp-sama, happen to terrify them, so they won't come near you as long as I'm around!" The sharpshooter boasted

"Really? How come?" Chopper gasped, his eyes wide.

Usopp beamed. "Well--"

"Shut up, Usopp, you can lie to him later!" Nami snapped, effectively silencing the marksman. She turned back to Luffy, hands at her hips. "Well?"

Luffy let out a laugh as he looked down at the rest of his crew, the breeze blowing his black bangs out of his eyes. "Sorry! We're coming!" He called before looking back to Zoro and smiling. "Come on, let's go!"

Zoro, whom was just recovering from the sudden close contact and brooding over the sudden change in temperature, felt the tension melt away at the sight of that smile. He couldn't help it, Luffy just had that effect on him. And Luffy had a good reason to be excited...something told Zoro this island was going to be a lot different than the others...

"Yeah, let's go."

---

"Man, this place is packed!" Usopp exclaimed as they made their way through the city streets.

The marksman was indeed right, hundreds of people seemed to be wandering the streets. They were everywhere, men strolling along in crisp suits with their ties slightly loosened due to the heat, children gazing into shop windows with star-struck eyes, their eager faces pressed against the glass. Young women wandered aimlessly in little groups through the town, giggling in high-pitched voices and drawing Sanji's wandering eye.

"Mellorine!" He murmured happily as he gazed at their short skirts, beginning to unconsciously wander in that direction.

Nami rolled her eyes as she sort of tugged on Sanji's arm to keep him moving. "Well, what did you expect? Kinzoku is the technological capital of the Grand Line, all the latest and greatest stuff comes from here. Of course everyone comes to check it out."

"Is that why this place looks so different? I've never seen buildings like this before!" Luffy exclaimed as he gazed up at the towering buildings, his eyes wide with amazement.

The navigator nodded. "They're called skyscrapers, and this place is the only place in the world with the technology to make them. Someday they'll probably start making them on other big islands too."

"Ah, Nami-san is so smart!" Sanji cooed, but went ignored.

Zoro frowned, his eyes narrowing as he watched a young, thuggish-looking man walk past, a small snake coiled around his wrist. It was unlike any snake he had seen, however, given how instead of a head it seemed to have a gun barrel "I see that's not all that's original to this place." He murmured as his hand unconsciously went to rest on the hilts of his katana.

Robin blinked, glancing over at the man and his snake. Then she chuckled. "Oh, is this your first time seeing one of them, Swordsman-san?" She asked, eyes sparkling with mirth. "I'm surprised, they're quite common nowadays."

When she saw the confusion in Zoro's eyes she chuckled again. "It's a gun, but it ate a devil fruit." She explained.

"It ate a devil fruit?" Zoro repeated, eyes widening. This was news to him.

Chopper's attention was finally torn from his awe-filled gaze at the city by this. He glanced up at Robin, blinking. "You mean like Mr.4's gun and how it ate a devil fruit that turned it into a dog?"

The dark-haired women smiled and nodded. "Yes, they now manufacture weapons that can eat devil fruit. They're really quite useful if you can get your hands on both. I believe this island is the place where they were invented, actually."

The reindeer's eyes widened. "Really?"

Zoro scowled. "Whatever. It's not that cool. It's not like it makes them any better than anything else. It's the warrior's skill that makes him what he is, not the weapons." He stated, giving the snake a final glare before it and it's owner vanished into the crowd. Something about it just seemed so...artificial. It bugged him.

Robin chuckled again. "You think so?"

The swordsman simply glared at her before stalking ahead of her with a grunt. Whether he was annoyed because of the weapons or because Robin had managed to fluster him again, Zoro wasn't entirely sure. All he knew was something about the whole thing was agitating him...both Robin and the damn weapons.

As Zoro stalked ahead he soon found himself sidling up next to Luffy, whom seemed so excited the swordsman made a point of keeping a few feet away in case he burst. However, instead of pulling ahead the swordsman decided to make a point of staying close. Someone had to make sure Luffy didn't run off in this crowd, after all. He quirked an eyebrow as he gazed down at the boy, whom hadn't quite noticed his presence yet.

"Oh my gosh that building! SUGOI! It's so neat! Oh, oh, those windows are so shiny! And-- Oh, that guy's selling FOOD!" Luffy gasped, his immediate rush to go get said food prevented only by the instinctive hold Zoro took on his collar.

"Heeeey, lemme go! I want food!" The boy whined, struggling against Zoro's grip.

Zoro shook his head, continuing to walk and dragging the boy behind him as he did so. "No way in hell are you running off in all this, we'd never find you." He growled. "In case you didn't notice, this place is packed. We'll come back and get some later, alright?"

"Awww, Zoro! No fair! I want food now!" Luffy pouted, his cheeks puffing up as he folded his arms defiantly.

The swordsman paused, quirking an eyebrow down at the boy. He then snorted, reaching down to press the straw hat down on Luffy's head and rub it back and forth, effectively messing up the hair beneath it. Luffy let out a cry and grabbed onto the hat to keep it steady, batting Zoro's arm away with his free hand as he did so. He glared up at Zoro, but he could only hold the expression for a moment before he burst into laughter.

After his giggles finally resolved, Luffy glanced around again. "Man, this place is so cool!" He declared. "Don't you think so?"

Without waiting for an answer, the boy grabbed Zoro's wrist and began to drag him along as he continued to gasp at all the "cool things". He would "ooh" and "ah" appreciatively at everything, occasionally stopping to point at something particularly interesting and insist Zoro look at it. Said swordsman was trying to look annoyed with the turn of events, but for the most part he just followed along with a bemused expression. He couldn't be annoyed with Luffy for long, it just never worked.

"Gee, they sure do have a lot of decorations up!" Luffy commented. He was quite right, streamers were stretched from building to building, as well as line after line of star-shaped, multicolored lights. Great, shining banners with stars on them waved in the breeze, and here and there one could see the statue of a tall young woman clad in an elaborate kimono.

"Hm, yeah." Zoro murmured, not really paying attention.

"I wonder what they're all for celebrating? I sure hope we'll be here for it!" The boy chirped. Zoro simply shrugged in reply, though Luffy didn't really notice as he continued to amble along.

A little bit behind the two, Nami was gazing at all the shops. "Wow...look at those clothes! I guess this place has more than all the technological goodies...look, that shop says it's clothes came all the way from the South Blue!" She said as she stared at a particular shop, a slinky blue dress that appeared to be made of silk placed in the window. It was decorated with what appeared to be actual diamonds, giving the dress the appearance of a shimmering, starlit sky, and came with a gleaming, silvery-blue cloth meant to be draped over the shoulders. Basically, it was gorgeous.

"Wow...that must be worth fifty million at least...but it would look perfect on me! I'm definitely going to have to come back here once I get some cash..." The navigator murmured, belli signs flashing in her eyes.

"What do you think, Sanji-kun?" She asked, glancing to her side for the cook, whom would undoubtedly swoon. Unfortunately, she didn't get to see his expected reaction, as Sanji's eyes were currently cast in the complete opposite direction at a group of girls with particularly short skirts.

"Ahhh, so lovely..." The cook sighed, clasping his hands together below his chin.

Nami frowned, her eyes narrowing. She immediately reached out to grab Sanji's ear and tug him over to her, drawing a yelp of pain from the cook. The girls saw this and let out a collective giggle. "Ah!" Sanji hissed in pain before turning his gaze on Nami again, and his face automatically melted into a dreamy sort of smile. "Yes, Nami-san?"

The ginger-haired navigator smiled sweetly and gestured to the dress. "What do you think, Sanji-kun? Don't you think it would look perfect on me?"

The cook took but a single glance at the dress before letting out a sigh and turning back to Nami. "Ah, Nami-san is so lovely that she could make anything look good!" He swooned.

Nami rolled her eyes, but decided to be patient. "Yes, yes I know. But what about the dress?"

"I think it would suit your graceful figure perfectly, Nami-san!"

The navigator gazed at him for a moment. Sanji always said things like that...but was he actually being honest, or just saying it? "You're serious?" She asked, brow furrowing slightly.

Sanji glanced down at her, his smile widening. "But of course. Anything you wear looks perfect on you, because your beauty seems to bathe everything around you." He declared.

Nami stared up at him for another moment. "Honestly?" She pressed, a small frown tugging at her features,

The cook gazed down at her for a moment, cocking his head to the side, before inclining his head and reaching down to grasp her hand in both of his. "Nami-san, I would never lie to you. It truly would look lovely on you, and I speak this from the bottom of my heart." He stated, his singsong tone completely absent.

The navigator watched him for a few seconds, then smiled and turned away, tugging her hand from his grasp. "Good, just what I needed to hear. I'll definitely have to come back and get it, then." She said, continuing along and gazing at the shops. Indeed, this place definitely seemed loaded. Fitting for a girl like her...

Trailing just behind her and Sanji were Usopp and Chopper. Chopper was staring up at the buildings and the rest of the city with eyes wide with complete awe, a wide smile on his face. As the doctor was so young and had seen so little besides his small snow-covered home, he was often just as excited as Luffy was when it came to a new island. Since he was so young, the thought of curbing his excitement even a little bit never crossed his mind, so every new thing was met with starry-eyed glee from the reindeer. Usopp too seemed awestruck as he stared up at the towering skyscrapers, a wide grin of boyish excitement upon his face.

"Wow...this place is so big!" Chopper gasped as he walked along, nearly tripping over everything in his path since his head was craned so far back, much like Luffy far up ahead.

"Yeah...this is the kind of place even a giant would consider huge!" Usopp gasped.

"Giants?" Chopper repeated as his eyes were torn from the skyscrapers to Usopp.

The marksman blinked as he found Chopper's eyes suddenly on him. The long-nosed boy then quickly grasped for a lie. "Yeah, giants! Why, on my great travels on these seas I came to their villages many times! They're so big that one of their little huts would be a castle to us!" He declared, motioning with his hands to illustrate.

Chopper gasped. "Really?"

Usopp nodded sagely. "Mmm hmm. In fact, they were so big I got lost in one for forty days and forty nights before my eight thousand followers found me!"

"Wow!"

"Yup, it's pretty amazing that I, the Great Master of Navigation, Captain Usopp-sama, could get lost, but I did!" Usopp then paused as another building caught his eye. For once, he didn't really feel like telling stories. "But uh...that's a story for another day. See, these buildings are even bigger!" He exclaimed.

"Wow!" The doctor looked completely awestruck as he looked back to the buildings. Even taller than a giant...and Usopp had really met giants, so he knew! Talk about cool!

Robin let out a laugh from behind them."He's quite right, actually. Some of these might not be too tall to them, but quite a few of these would actually reach far over their head."

"Really?" Usopp asked, glancing back at Robin. "How would you know?"

The dark-haired woman gazed at him for a moment as she gave one of her mysterious smiles. "Oh, a... friend told me." She said after a moment with a nonchalant shrug, a hint of sadness barely visible in her sky blue gaze.

Chopper missed this, however, as he was still looking around. "Wow, look at that!" He suddenly cried, pointing up ahead. Right at the center of the city stood a skyscraper that towered above the others, going so high Chopper could only just barely see the red light flashing at the very top of it. It seemed to be made of either glass or some kind of crystal, as it shimmered in the sun like no other building did. At the top a pair of shining, blue crystal wings were sculpted, clearly meant to be some sort of symbol.

Usopp's jaw dropped as he craned his neck to stare up at the tower. "...Whoa..."

Robin smiled as she gazed up at it as well, the breeze blowing back her dark hair. "Ah, I believe that is the city's pride and joy. It's called the Celestial Tower, and it's the tallest man-made structure in the world to date. The wings are the crest of the Hatsudoki's."

"Wow...the tallest in the world!" Chopper gasped.

"The Hatsudoki's?" Usopp repeated, glancing from the tower to Robin, whom nodded.

"The Hatsudoki's are the creators of Hatsudoki inc., a company that has been around for generations. Hatsudoki inc. is the company that creates everything new that comes from this island. In fact, they're the ones that came up with the Den Den Mushi."

"They came up with those?" Usopp gasped, sounding amazed.

Robin nodded. "Yes, and many other things. This island is no monarchy, but the Hatsudoki's have a great hand in political affairs. It's because of them that this island is the way it is." She explained. "Without them this would just be a plain, ordinary island. But with them in charge, this is their empire, and it thrives because of them."

"Wow..." Usopp murmured as he gazed up at the tower. "Hey...how do you know all this, anyway?" He inquired.

The archaeologist simply shrugged and flashed one of her mysterious smiles once again before walking past Usopp. "You may want to get moving again, Long Nose-kun, Doctor-san, it seems the others are leaving without you!" She called over her shoulder.

The marksman blinked before glancing ahead of Robin. Sure enough, the Straw Hats were moving again. Usopp's eyes widened and he let out a cry before rushing after them, grabbing Chopper's antlers and dragging him along. "Oi, oi! Wait up!" He called, apparently deaf to Chopper's cries to release him.

He didn't have to run very far, however, before he crashed into Zoro's back. The marksmen let out a cry, bouncing back and grabbing at his now throbbing nose. He then flinched as Zoro turned and shot him a death glare, a low growl rumbling in the swordsman's throat. Usopp gave a sheepish grin and a tiny wave, which Zoro simply snorted at before turning back. The long-nosed boy gave a sigh of relief, he had been spared today.

Chopper had been about to yell at Usopp for dragging him, but he too had been cut off by Zoro's glare. The doctor paused, blinking, before glancing up at Usopp. "What's going on?" The marksmen shrugged, and then both wordlessly agreed it was safe to peer around Zoro to see.

There stood the rest of the crew in the street with Luffy in the middle of it, apparently having a conversation with a young woman in a maid's outfit and a man in a suit. The woman's short, light brown hair blew in the breeze, dimples appearing on her cheeks as she smiled. She had a warm, friendly air about her that was a complete contrast to the man's stern, strict one. His hair was a silvery blond and it was slicked back without a strand out of place, his face betraying no hint of emotion.

"- But please, sir, you and your crew must come! The master has requested your presence, it's not very often that he can take time off of work. You simply must come!" The girl in the maid's outfit was saying, her hands clasped beneath her chin as she spoke.

Nami shook her head, her arms folded before her. "No way. The head of the company that pretty much runs this place wants to invite us all personally to his mansion? Us? It's way too suspicious. We're not going."

"Nami-san is so wonderful when she's being forceful!" Sanji crooned.

Luffy pouted. "Awww, but Nami, they sound so cool and they offered food and--"

"She's right, Luffy." Zoro admitted somewhat grudgingly as he fixed a glare upon the girl. "You really expect us to believe that you're inviting a pirate crew to a mansion? What kind of idiots do you take us for? Why not just try to take us out here and get it over with instead of playing this idiotic attempt at a trap?"

The girl swallowed, clearly terrified under Zoro's gaze, but she held her ground. "P-please! It's no trap! The master truly wishes to invite you all as guests! I-I even brought the summons and everything." She said.

"Yeah Zoro, look! We're really invited!" Luffy said, waving a now slightly crumpled paper with silver writing in the air.

"Wait, we got invited to the Hatsudoki mansion?" Usopp finally spoke up.

Luffy grinned and nodded. "Yup! It says we're invited by some guy named Shigeru Hatsudoki or something like that! He says he wants us to stay at his big mansion and this lady says we can play there and eat all the food we want!"

"Really?" Chopper gasped, his eyes wide. "I wanna go, I wanna go!"

"Me too! It sounds like a once in a lifetime chance!" Usopp cried, all his bravado forgotten in this moment.

"See! They want to go too! Come on Nami, let's go! Please?" Luffy pleaded, clasping his fingers together below his chin and giving Nami the puppy dog eyes.

Unfortunately, while such an act would have worked quite well on Zoro, it didn't have anywhere near the same effect on the ginger-haired navigator. She responded by pulling back her fist and decking him across the head. "We aren't going! It's obviously a trap!" She snarled.

Luffy whimpered, clutched at the sizable lump now throbbing on his head. "But Nami--"

"No buts!"

The girl in the maid's outfit winced, biting her lip. "Please! The master is a really big fan of yours and he honestly means no harm, he just wants to meet you! Please, you simply must come!" She pleaded.

Sanji looked a bit unsure at this as he glanced from Nami to the girl, whom seemed to nearly be on the verge of tears. A women should never have to cry...

"Give it a rest, Chihiro." The man in the suit finally spoke up, glaring down his nose at the Straw Hats.

The brown-haired girl, or rather, Chihiro, glanced up at the man. "But...but, sempai--"

"Clearly these riff-raff do not understand the opportunity of being in the presence of one of the richest men in the world. If they choose to turn down such an offer they aren't worthy of being in Hatsudoki-sama's presence." The man drawled, turning away. "Come along, we must be going."

"But sempai--"

Once again, Chihiro was cut off, but this time it was by Nami's face suddenly being mere inches from hers. "Did he say...one of the richest men in the world?" Nami asked, a cat-like gleam in her eyes.

The girl gulped and nodded, shivering. S-scary... "Y-yes, the Hatsudoki's are one of the wealthiest families in the world."

Nami let out a squeal. "Well why didn't you say so?" She asked, throwing her arms up into the air as if she were going to hug Chihiro. The maid yelped, moving out of the way as the navigator turned to the rest of the crew. "What are we waiting for guys? It's rude to turn down an invitation, after all!"

Luffy, Usopp, and Chopper all cheered as one, then promptly began a strange sort of dance they called the "We're going to a mansion!" dance. Sanji, meanwhile, was doing his usual number, "Nami-san is so wonderful when she's suddenly completely changed her mind!"

Zoro's jaw dropped, his eyes widening. "B-but...but..." He sputtered. "It's so..."

"Suspicious? Perhaps. Though maybe not for the reasons you're thinking." Robin commented from beside him, amusement in her eyes. The swordsman spun around to glare at her.

"What the hell are you talking about?" He growled.

"Oh, nothing. Still, no matter what they do...you're going to protect him, aren't you?" The dark-haired woman spoke as she walked past him. Zoro stared after her, unsure of what to say to that as he watched the Straw Hats begin to follow an ecstatic Chihiro and less-than-thrilled "sempai" to the mansion.

The swordsman scowled as he began to trail behind, one hand going to his swords. The others may have trusted that women, but he still didn't. Even so, compared to that suspicion this was definitely worse, something was seriously up with this whole mess. He may not have been sure what was exactly wrong, but whatever it was, it wasn't touching his captain. Not if he could help it.

---

"Woooow!" Luffy gasped as he stepped through the doorway into the Hatsudoki mansion. "It's huge!"

He was right, the mansion was huge. It had taken them several minutes just to tromp through the main courtyard, which was decorated with exquisite statues and fountains. The cobblestone path, lined with exotic flowers and trees, lead up to the house itself, which was several stories high and the color of gleaming pearl. Two great, winged stone lions guarded the main entryway, which had been sculpted to make it look as if vines were entwined around it and arced above their heads as they passed beneath it.

The room which they were greeted with was huge, with great stone column's holding the roof high above their heads, an expensive-looking chandelier hanging from it. The walls were hung with portraits of men and women who were probably the Hatsudoki's ancestors. These paintings went from very recent to quite far back, it was clear the family had been there for quite some time. The floor beneath them all was crafted out of gleaming marble of all colors, the stone arranged to depict great sapphire-colored wings.

The crew gazed at this all with expressions ranging from amazement to awe to shock. Finally after a few moments of silence Chopper spoke up. "Wow."

"Yeah." Usopp agreed, nodding his head dumbly as he stared at the shining double staircase that wrapped around half the room.

"This guy's definitely loaded." Sanji commented, letting out a low whistle of appreciation.

"Well, he is one of the richest men alive." Robin stated as she glanced around.

"This is so cool!" Luffy exclaimed giddily, while Zoro merely took in all in with naught but a raised eyebrow. Nami could only manage a squeak of happiness, belli-signs in her eyes.

"I'm glad to see my home is to your liking, Straw Hats." A voice came from up at the top of the stairs, drawing seven sets of eyes in that direction. There stood a man seemingly in his thirties, his short-cut black hair streaked with strands of gray here and there. He was clad in a black suit that seemed to pay homage to a Marine Admirals coat, with golden shoulder pads and tassels dangling from them. He wore a gold band diagonally across his chest as well to match with the golden buttons of his jacket.

Next to him stood a woman whom seemed close to his age, her dark brown hair pulled back in an elegant upsweep to reveal her slender neck and the sapphire jewels that adorned it. Her dress, which seemed quite a bit like a kimono, seemed to be made of pure silk and was decorated with a design of indigo butterflies fluttering across a star lit night sky. Her arm was entwined with the mans as she stood there, smiling down at the Straw Hats warmly, her dark brown eyes sparkling.

"Ah, I present to you Master and Mistress Hatsudoki." Chihiro spoke up from the foot of the stairs, then bowed and backed away as the couple began to descend.

Once they reached the bottom the man glanced at the crew, then gave a smile and inclined his head in greeting. "Good afternoon, I am Shigeru Hatsudoki, and this is my wife Nanasawa." The woman inclined her head, giving a soft-spoken "How do you do?"

Luffy was quick to break the atmosphere by suddenly rushing up to Shigeru, a bundle of barely contained excitement. "This place is really your house? That's so cool, mister!"

"Luffy! Show some respect!" Nami snapped, whacking the boy on the back of the head before turning to Shigeru and bowing. "Please excuse him, sir, he has no manners. But he's right, your house is absolutely lovely." She said, clasping her hands beneath her chin as she rose and gazed around once more.

Shigeru chuckled. "Yes, yes, this mansion has been in my family for generations. I am the current owner of the estate, and in time my children will be the ones to own it...oh my, I nearly forgot! Haku, would you mind getting them?" He asked, glancing over at the blond, whom nodded and immediately disappeared into a door.

Nanasawa sighed, shaking her head. "Forgot again, dear?" She asked teasingly.

"Ah, yes." Shigeru said, rubbing the back of his head as he turned back to the Strawhats. "You'll have to forgive me, I have a terrible memory. I figured my children would like to see you so I--"

"Cut to the chase. Why did you invite us?" Zoro suddenly spoke up as he glared up at Shigeru and Nanasawa, one hand resting on the hilts of his katana.

"Zoro, don't be rude!" Nami hissed through clenched teeth.

"Actually, Swordsman-san does ask a very interesting question. I too would like to know." Robin said as she tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ear. "It's not that we're not grateful, but we'd like to know why you've invited pirates like ourselves into your home. Especially considering our reputation and all, surely you understand."

"Oi, oi, guys! Don't go looking a gift horse in the mouth!" Usopp was saying, but Shigeru merely chuckled again.

"It's perfectly fine, I understand. I would be suspicious too, if I were in your position. Very well, let me explain. My son, Taichi, is a big fan of you all. We've heard of your deeds through word of mouth, and I must say even I am greatly impressed. I heard that your ship was spotted in port, and I decided as a surprise I'd invite his favorite pirate crew here." He explained.

"Wow, you're doing all that for your kid? You must be a great dad, Ossan!" Luffy said with a grin. The others all gave murmurs of agreement, save for Zoro, whom scowled. It sounded like complete bullshit to him.

Shigeru laughed, shaking his head. "Ah, you are all truly an amusing bunch. You needn't be so polite, I don't mind. I'm sure Miho and Taichi will love you...speaking of which, here they are!" He said as he gestured to the doors at bottom of the stairs, which opened.

A young boy no older than ten came rolling into the room on a wheelchair. His dark brown bangs hung in front of eyes of the same hue, which were a stark contrast to his pale, face. The moment his eyes set upon the Straw Hats they widened. "The Straw Hat pirates?" He asked. His voice was incredibly quiet, but the shock was evident in his tone.

Shigeru smiled and nodded. "That's right." He said before turning to the Straw Hats. "Say hello to my son, Taichi."

The Straw Hats all chorused their greetings, some more excited than others. Taichi gave a shy smile. "Wow...I can't believe this...so you're real pirates, then?"

Luffy glanced over towards Shigeru, whom nodded and seemed to be urging him forward. The rubber pirates face then burst into a wide grin and he bounded over to the boy. "You bet! We're pirates! We have a ship and a jolly roger with a skull and crossbones and everything! It's awesome!"

"Wow. That's amazing!" Taichi exclaimed, his eyes wide. "And you sail wherever you want?"

"Yup!" Usopp spoke up, clearly taking this as an opportune moment to show off. "Why, I, the Great Captain Usopp-sama, have been all over the world with my eight thousand followers!" He declared.

The boy frowned, raising an eyebrow. "You have eight thousand followers?" He asked, sounding skeptical.

"Why, of course I do!" Usopp said with a huff. "They're just really good at hiding."

"Wow...and you guys have a whole crew?" Taichi asked as he glanced at the rest of the Straw Hats. Luffy nodded.

"Yup! See? There's Nami, she's our navigator, and Sanji, he's our cook and he makes really yummy food! And Chopper right here is a doctor, he's the best! And I have an archaeologist, Robin over there, and a liar too!" Luffy said as he counted everyone off, pointing to each person as he mentioned them.

"Oi, I'm a sniper!" Usopp snapped, but went ignored.

Taichi stared at them dubiously for a moment before pointing at Chopper. "He's a doctor? But he's a deer!"

"I'M A REINDEER!" Chopper snarled as he suddenly grew to his big man form, causing Taichi to let out a small yelp and cover his head. Luffy just laughed and patted Chopper on the back.

"Yeah, he's our doctor! Isn't he cool? He's gonna be the best doctor in the whole world!"

Chopper blinked, then shrunk back to his regular form, blushing. "I-I...I...saying things like that doesn't make me happy, you asshole!" He cried, though he was dancing with glee. Taichi laughed at this, and the four of them were soon once again deep in conversation.

Taichi's parents watched him with proud smiles on their faces. "Isn't it great how well he gets along with them, sweetie?" Nanasawa spoke up, and Shigeru nodded in reply.

"That's kind of creepy how well they all get along..." Nami said as she stared at the four of them.

"Well, they are all the same age...mentally, at any rate." Sanji muttered, a comment which Zoro snorted at in spite of himself.

"I wouldn't be so sure of that...he's certainly quiet for a ten-year old." Robin commented as she glanced to Shigeru and Nanasawa. "Has he always been like this?"

Nanasawa shook her head. "No, although this is an improvement from how it's been. He's been quiet ever since the accident that...well..." She trailed off as she gazed at her little boy in his wheelchair, sadness in her gaze. "When he was younger he was such a happy, energetic child, but after...that, all he ever does is stay up in his room with his inventions."

"Inventions?" Nami repeated.

Shigeru grinned and nodded. "Yes! My son is an amazing inventor, even better than my father was! He was the one who came with the idea for the devil-fruit eating weapons and gave us the earlier designs. He's also the one who designed our security system."

"Wow...that little kid did all that?" The navigator said, sounding impressed as she glanced back at the boy, whom was smiling and laughing at something Usopp had said.

"Yes...but that's all he's been doing as of late, lately he hardly comes out of his room. So to see him out here, talking and laughing...I'm so happy." Nanasawa said, tears of joy coming to her eyes. Shigeru smiled and wrapped an arm around her, mouthing a "thank you" over her head.

"Anyway, yes, that's Taichi, but where's-- aha, there she is! Miho, my darling!" Shigeru exclaimed, gesturing to the door once again.

There stood a girl who looked around the age of sixteen. Her perfectly straight black bangs hung into her eyes, while the rest reached to the middle of her back. Her tight black halter top and white skirt fit well to her thin, petite frame, though the cold scowl she wore did not. "Took you long enough to notice." She murmured under her breath, her midnight blue eyes narrowing.

Her parents apparently didn't hear her, however, as they both simply smiled. "Miho, sweetie, say hello to our guests. These are the Straw Hat pirates." Nanasawa said, gesturing to them.

Miho turned towards them, her eyebrows rising up in surprise. "Really? You invited pirates here?" She said as she glanced around at their motley crew. She then snorted. "They don't really look like terrors of the seas to me."

She then let out a cry as she quite suddenly found her hand enclosed in another. She stared down at Sanji, whom had knelt before her and was planting a soft kiss upon her hand. "My lady, is is an honor." He drawled, his voice coming out low and smooth. "To simply lay eyes upon a beauty such as yourself, this trip has been worthwhile."

"Ah...ah..." Miho blinked, feeling a blush come to her cheeks. She apparently had no idea what to make of this. She carefully removed her hand from Sanji's, backing away. "Did my dad put you up to this?"

"No, of course not, my sweet!" Sanji exclaimed.

Miho frowned at him for another moment. However, she was shocked out of this as Nami suddenly sidled up by Sanji. "That's a really nice outfit, where'd you get it?" She asked, flashing a smile.

"Oh, this? It's custom made." Miho said, tugging a bit on the hem of her skirt.

"I see." Nami said as she walked around the girl, glancing up and down. "Are all of your things custom made?"

The dark-haired girl nodded. "Well, of course. Dad pays for it all."

"Really?" The navigator gasped. "Well, you're certainly lucky..."

Miho frowned, her gaze growing a bit distant. "I guess..."

Nami blinked at her. "Well, what could be more lucky than that?"

"Nami-san is right. Your father is certainly kind to dote on you so, not that a lovely lady like you doesn't deserve it." Sanji said.

Mino snorted. "Kind? My father? He hardly pays attention to us! He wouldn't even notice if one of his own children were planning to murder him!" She exclaimed in a huff.

Nami quirked a brow at this. "Wow, that's pretty extreme."

"It's true." Miho scowled.

The ginger-haired girl laughed, shaking her head. "I wasn't saying it wasn't! Here, let's get back on subject, about those clothes..." The two continued chatting, with Sanji occasionally interjecting comments here and there as he had no idea what they were talking about. Women were so mysterious!

Robin watched all this transpire with a wry smile before turning back to Shigeru and Nanasawa. "Well, it seems they're all getting along fine." She commented loftily.

Nanasawa smiled. "Oh, I'm so glad. The children have seemed so depressed as of late...I'm so happy to see they're finally acting a bit like themselves again!" She said with a smile. "You've all truly worked a miracle, we'll have to repay you all somehow."

Robin chuckled. "Oh, I'm sure one of them will think of something..." She said, trailing off as she watched the evil gleam in Nami's eyes at Miho's mention of her wealth. The dark-haired woman chuckled again, shaking her head. "Truly a strange bunch..."

Nanasawa laughed as well, but Shigeru was silent as he stared intently at Robin. Finally after a few seconds he spoke up. "This may seem strange...but have we met before?"

The archaeologist looked at Shigeru for a moment, sky blue eyes meeting midnight. "...No, I don't believe we have." Robin finally said with a smile, though there was a touch of sadness to the expression, like the first raindrop on a cloudy day.

Shigeru frowned as he gazed at her for a moment before shrugging and smiling again. "Ah, sorry. I swear it feels like we've met before, but it must've just been my imagination." He said with a chuckle.

Robin chuckled as well. "Life is...strange that way, isn't it?"

The Straw Hats and the Hatsudoki family continued to talk for quite some time, the shadows cast by the windows slowly lengthening as the day wore on and the Straw Hats were invited into the dining room to share some snacks. Taichi seemed completely thrilled to be in the presence of real pirates, and Nami and Sanji seemed to be enjoying themselves talking to Miho. Meanwhile, Robin was listening to stories about the island from Shigeru and Nanasawa, and seemed quite interested. Zoro was the only one not having a good time, and this was mainly because he was determined not to because the entire thing still seemed so suspicious to him.

Only when the skylights were filled with the amber glow of sunset did Haku make himself known at the doorway. "Excuse me sir, but it is time for Master Taichi to take his medication." He said, effectively interrupting everyone's conversations.

"Awwww, does that mean Taichi has to go?" Luffy whined. "No fair, we were having fun!"

"Yeah, I was just about to tell him the story of how I escaped the island of cannibalistic midgets!" Usopp exclaimed. Chopper let out a whine, clearly disappointed.

Taichi looked to Haku, his eyes sad. "Is it really time already, Haku-san?"

Haku nodded solemnly. "I'm afraid so. Come along, Taichi."

The boy let out a sigh before looking to the Straw Hat crew. "I'm sorry, it was nice to meet you all. Thank you very much for coming." He said, bowing his head.

"Oi, why are you acting like this is goodbye?" Luffy exclaimed.

Taichi looked up at them, blinking in confusion. "But, I--"

"Yeah, seriously! We'll see each other again! After all, I still gotta tell you the story about the midgets!" Usopp said with a grin.

Chopper beamed and nodded. "Yeah, yeah!"

Taichi stared at them for a moment. Then he smiled. "Alright. I'll see you all later then." He said, giving a wave. Then Haku wordlessly took the handles of his wheelchair and wheeled the child away.

"Well, we should probably be heading back too." Nami said, glancing at the clock. "Even now we won't get back to the ship until nightfall."

"We're leaving already?" Luffy asked, eyes wide.

Robin frowned. "Navigator-san is right, we do need to get back to the ship."

"Awwwwwwww, but I don't wanna leave!" Luffy whined, folding his arms and giving a childish pout.

"Yeah, me either!" Usopp piped up. "I like it here!"

Chopper nodded in agreement, his eyes shining with excitement. "Yeah, yeah! It's so cool!"

Sanji too, seemed a bit reluctant to leave. He glanced towards Miho, whom also looked a bit sad. "Well...it would be a shame for you to all leave already...not that I enjoy having you all here or anything." The teen said shyly, tucking a strand of black hair behind her ear.

Zoro rolled his eyes and stood up from the spot where he'd been leaning against the wall (he had chosen not to take a seat when the Hatsudoki's offered), stretching his arms above his head. "Yeah, yeah, I know it's cool but Nami said we need to get going, so let's get out of here." Normally Zoro could care less what Nami said, but if it meant getting out of the mansion he was all for it. He had been just fine with this island until the Hatsudoki's entered the picture, and he was perfectly happy to have them leave it.

He began to head for the door, glancing over his shoulder for everyone. "Come on."

"Zoro! You don't have to be like that! They were nice to us and you aren't even gonna say goodbye?" Usopp exclaimed. "How rude!"

"Rude!" Chopper chimed in, jumping up and down, apparently missing the fact that he and Usopp's loudness could be considered rude as well.

The swordsman scowled. "Fine, whatever. It was nice meeting you all, but we've gotta get going. Come on." He repeated before heading for the door again.

"Oh, please, don't leave!" Nanasawa pleaded, standing up as if she were about to try and stop them. However, when all eyes turned on her, she flushed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so insistent. But it's a very long walk back to port...wouldn't it be easier to just stay the night here?"

Zoro frowned, turning back. He didn't like where this was going.

"Ah, yes Nanasawa, that's a wonderful idea! Actually, I have the perfect plan!" Shigeru said, clapping his hands together. "A Log Post takes a week to set here. Why not just stay here for the week?"

"Stay here?" Luffy repeated, a wide smile coming to his face. "You mean that? Really?"

"Why yes, of course! We do owe you for what you've done for our children, and this afternoon has been most enjoyable...so why not spend the week here? You can come and go whenever you please, and you'll have access to everything in the house!"

"Everything in the house?" Nami repeated, belli signs flashing in her eyes.

Nanasawa nodded, a smile coming to her face. "Yes, yes! Consider it payment, you can enjoy a week of luxury here on the island! It would be the perfect vacation, wouldn't you say? Especially with this week being the Festival of the Celestial Maiden and all."

"Festival?" Luffy repeated, his grin widening even more. "You mean like a party!"

Shigeru smiled. "Yes, something like that. We have a week-long festival to celebrate the summer that we have every year on this island. It's a time for everyone to kick back and relax. People throw all sorts of parties and there are all sorts of events like parades, contests, and dances! There's no better time to visit, and you all have arrived on the day before the opening ceremony!"

"Sugoi!" Luffy gasped, stars appearing in his eyes. "A week long festival! Awesome, awesome!"

"It sounds like so much fun! I've never been to a week-long festival before!" Chopper exclaimed, jumping up and down.

"Yeah, it sounds great! I definitely want to go!" Usopp declared.

"And festivals always have lots of lovely girls!" Sanji said in a singsong tone, which drew a look of disgust from Zoro.

Nami grinned. "And of course, there's always lots of sales for this sort of thing..."

"It does seem like a lot of fun." Robin agreed. "What's your opinion, Swordsman-san?"

Zoro glanced from one crewmate's excited face to the next. Then he gave a sigh of defeat, hanging his head. "No matter what I say, it's not going to change anything, is it?" He muttered.

Luffy threw back his head and laughed, whacking the swordsman hard on the back. "Well, there you have it Ossan! We're staying for the festival!"The other Straw Hats all gave cheers at this, their voices so loud they echoed through the entire mansion.

Shigeru chuckled, a smile coming to his face. "I'm glad. Chihiro here will show you to your rooms, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!"

The girl in the maid outfit stepped out at the sound of her name, beaming. "You're all staying? Perfect! Come right this way, I'll show you to your rooms!" She called, gesturing for them to all follow up the stairs.

And so the Straw Hat crew did just that, following Chihiro and chattering away. Each of them seemed excited over this "vacation" for varying reasons, but regardless they could all agree on one thing; This was going to be fun! Or rather, everyone could agree but Zoro, whom was trailing a bit behind the rest.

The others may have trusted easily, but Zoro did not. Shigeru may have said they were only there as guests, but the swordsman had a feeling in his gut that this was not entirely the case. And if there was one thing Zoro had learned on his adventures, it was to trust his gut. Sure, he would enjoy the festival, but that didn't mean he would be dropping his guard.

There was something more to this whole situation than met the eye, and Zoro was going to find out what.

---

To Be Continued...

Phew, that was long. Geez, and it was only the first chapter...admittedly, there was little to no action, but it sets the stage and introduces us to our key players, and that's what's important. I know this fic doesn't seem like much now, but at least try to give it a chance, okay?

Please review, I need to know people are interested in this.