-Between The Lines-

A One Piece Fanfic by Digitaldreamer

Chapter Two: The Festival

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Man, certainly took me awhile to update this, ne? I'm terribly sorry, the first scene is a whole lot of exposition and it was hell to try to write. Well, that and watching the most awesome anime series ever, Gankutsuou, may have had something to do with it. Seriously, Gankutsuou is the best anime ever, if you can make sure to check it out.

Well...this certainly got more of a positive response than I expected. I expected everyone to hate it and to only get reviews from, die-hard fans...glad to see I was wrong, I saw a many reviews from people I've never seen before! Thank you all very much; I hope this fic will be able to meet all your expectations!

Oh, also guys, I've got some news! I made a ZoLu C2, Captain and First Mate! It's an archive for all well-written ZoLu fics out there, not necessarily the best, but the good ones, at any rate. So if you have any nominations, feel free to PM me with them!

Also, TreeStar and I are running a ZoLu forum here on So if you like ZoLu, feel free to pop by and start a discussion!

Er...right. Well, I hope this chapter came out okay! It was my first time writing some SaNa, and my first time in awhile writing ZoLu. I hope I did an okay job. I really hope everyone's IC! (Definitely not panicking about that, nosiree...)

Right, on to the chapter!

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After spending the night at the Hatsudoki mansion, the Straw Hats all gathered in the dining room for breakfast. Of course, the change in scenery did not stop the meal from turning into what it always was on the ship, an affair of chaos that should have been considered illegal at such an hour. Food seemed to fly everywhere as Luffy inhaled everything in sight, his arms stretching this way and that to snatch things directly from others plates. This resulted in an argument with Usopp that was rather one-sided given that the rubber pirate's mouth was too full of food to properly argue.

Of course then Chopper somehow got involved and the two were yelling at Luffy, whom was as oblivious to them as they seemed to be of Nami yelling at them, as well as Sanji yelling at them for "disturbing Nami-san and Robin-chan's meals"! Zoro went on eating, pausing only to cast a glare that promised much pain whenever Luffy's fingers strayed in the direction of his plate. Robin simply watched with a bemused smile on her face, sipping her coffee.

The servants watched all this with expressions ranging from awed to disgusted, while Shigeru and Nanasawa simply ate as if this were a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence at their table. Taichi was staring at the pirates, his jaw slack and food untouched. Miho, however, was the one to finally speak up.

"Does he...always do that?" She asked, nodding to Luffy and wrinkling her nose in disgust.

Nami rolled her eyes. "Every meal."

Miho made a face. "Gross."

"You have no idea." The navigator muttered as she sipped her orange juice.

Shigeru chuckled. "It's no problem, we don't mind." He said, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he smiled.

Nanasawa nodded. "Indeed, we haven't had guests this lively in a long time." She agreed. "It's nice to have company. I do hope you're all enjoying yourselves?"

"You bet!" Usopp said with a grin.

"This place is so cool!" Chopper agreed, his eyes shining in amazement.

Robin inclined her head. "Doctor-san is right, you have a lovely home."

Nami nodded and smiled. "She's right. Thank you very much for letting us stay here."

Nanasawa flashed a warm smile. "Oh, it's no trouble at all. If there's anything we can do to make your stay better don't hesitate to ask."

"Thank you, but I think we're fine for now." The navigator said sweetly. "Although later I just might have to take you up on your offer." She added, making the master and mistress chuckle again.

"Nami-san, you seem to be running out of orange juice, please allow me to refill your glass." Sanji spoke up, the ice cubes in the pitcher of orange juice sloshing as he held it up.

The ginger-haired girl glanced down at her empty glass for a moment, then smiled and held out her glass. "Why, thank you Sanji-kun." She said in a syrupy sweet tone as the chef filled her glass.

"Ahhh, Nami-san is so lovely!" The cook swooned as Nami brought the glass to her lips and sipped, her small words of gratitude apparently enough to send him into a fit of ecstasy.

Taichi wrinkled his nose as he watched this. Geez, he thought pirates would be different, but it looked like all adults acted stupid and lovey-dovey at some point. He gnawed on a piece of bacon, brow furrowing as he grumbled. "Yeah well, it's not like she's the Celestial Maiden or anything."

"Oi, watch what you say about Nami-san!" Sanji snapped.

"The Celestial Maiden?" Nami repeated, ignoring the apparent insult.

Shigeru blinked. "Ahh, that's right. You're not familiar with the legend, are you?"

"Legend?" Luffy repeated through a mouthful of pancakes, his eyes widening as his attention was finally torn from the food in favor of something else interesting. "What legend?"

"Why, the Legend of the Celestial Maiden, of course."

"Oohh, sounds cool! What's it about?" Chopper gasped, eyes wide.

"Well, from the title I think it's rather obvious that it's about the Celestial Maiden." Zoro pointed out dryly, but went ignored.

Nanasawa smiled, threading her fingers gracefully before her. "Well, they say that a long time ago, when this island was just a small village, a young woman descended from the heavens to bathe in our hot springs. While she was bathing, a young man spotted her. Realizing what she was, he stole her Celestial Robes, as without them the maiden could not return to heaven. When she discovered her robes were missing, the Celestial Maiden despaired. The man who stole her robes came to her aid and took her to stay with him, pretending to know nothing of her robes. He introduced her to his friends and family, as well as his best friend, another young man by the name of Hatsudoki. The maiden was sad to not be able to return to her home, but she had no choice but to stay."

"Many years passed. Hatsudoki and the Celestial Maiden eventually fell in love and even went on to raise a family. The two were very happy together, but Hatsudoki's friend, the one who had stolen the robes, was jealous. He told his friend about the Maiden's origins and her missing robes. Hatsudoki was shocked, but he loved her so much that he decided to go and search for the robes so she could return home. The maiden did not want him to leave, but he insisted that he do this for her. The Maiden, in turn, promised that she would watch over his home until he returned, and bless it with prosperity and success."

"And so he left, never knowing that his friend had hidden the Celestial Maiden's robes for all those years. He never returned, and to this day it is said that the Celestial Maiden is still waiting for him." Nanasawa finally trailed off into silence, letting this sink in.

After a few moments of silence, Chopper finally spoke, his eyes wide with amazement. "Wow...so she's still waiting here on the island for him? She never got her robes back?"

Nanasawa shook her head. "No. Some say that is why this island is so prosperous, because of her blessing. That is why every year we hold a festival in her honor, to celebrate what her blessing has done for this island."

Miho snorted. "That's just a fairy tale. Everyone knows the only real reason for the festival is to give all the work-a-holics on this island a break."

"It's not just a fairy tale, it's real!" Taichi snapped. "Our names are even in the story, that's proof enough!"

"Children, don't fight." Nanasawa admonished calmly, but went mostly ignored.

"Well, for a fairy tale that's certainly a strange coincidence, having your name in it and all." Zoro said, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, our name does go very far back." Nanasawa pointed out.

"I think it's cool!" Luffy declared with a laugh, "We know people from a fairy tale, how cool is that?"

"You really think so?" Taichi asked, looking to them with wide, hopeful eyes.

Usopp beamed and nodded. "You bet! Don't you agree Chopper?" He asked, nudging the reindeer and starting him out of his thoughts.

"Huh?"

"Don't you think it's cool that we know people from a fairy tale?" Usopp asked.

"O-oh, yeah!" Chopper said with a quick nod, though he seemed distant. That poor lady...to have to wait all that time...

Shigeru chuckled, shaking his head. "Some believe the legend, some do not. Regardless, it is what we base the festival off of, as well as the contests the festival is centered around at the beginning."

"Contests?" Luffy repeated, perking up. "What kind of contests?"

"Oh, they vary from year to year. All sorts of people from all over the island enter; it's a lot of fun." Shigeru said with a grin.

"Are there prizes?" Nami asked, eyes glinting.

Shigeru chuckled. "Well, sort of. You see, in the legend it's said that the man who stole the Celestial Maiden's robes broke them into three pieces and he sold them across the globe after her husband passed away. Thus, we have our three gems that represent the celestial robes, and a contest held for each piece. If someone gets all three, it is said that the Celestial Maiden will grant them a wish before finally returning to heaven and reuniting with her beloved. Of course, no one's ever won all three contests so-"

"So if we get these three gems, the Celestial Maiden can finally go home?" Chopper interrupted, his eyes wide.

"Well, that's what they say. But like I said, no one's ever--"

"I'm gonna win them!" The doctor declared, determination etched across his face. "I'm gonna win them and then give them to that lady so she can finally go back to heaven!"

"Yeah, me too!" Luffy cheered.

"You can't both win, idiots." Zoro pointed out.

The boy pouted. "So? I wanna help anyway! It sounds like fun!

"Y-yeah, I wanna help too!" Usopp cheered. "As long as these contests aren't too dangerous." He added under his breath.

"Actually, this does sound like this might be fun." Zoro admitted grudgingly. "I wouldn't mind giving it a go either."

"You sure you want to say that before you know what the contests are, Marimo?" Sanji sneered. "Not that it matters, I'll cream you at whatever it is anyway."

The swordsman snorted. "You wish."

"And just think of how much those gems might be worth..." Nami murmured. She then paused as Chopper glared at her. "Um..not that I planned on selling them or anything, haha..."

"Well then, Mr.Hatsudoki, it looks like you've got the entire crew already excited over your little games." Robin said with a light laugh, turning to the older man.

"Looks that way." Shigeru chuckled. "I certainly hope you'll all be able to relax enough to enjoy the opening ceremonies."

"Opening ceremonies?" Nami repeated.

"Well, yes. The festivities should just be starting downtown actually, and the ceremony to kick off the actual festival should be in a few hours..."

"Festivities as in?" Usopp perked up, a grin on his face.

"Oh, you know, the carnival. Rides, games, food, things like that." Miho said offhandedly.

"A carnival?" Luffy repeated, eyes widening. He jumped to his feet, the few scraps that remained of breakfast forgotten. "I wanna go! I wanna go!" He declared, jumping up and down.

"Me too!" Chopper squealed, his eyes sparkling. "I've never been to a carnival!"

"They'll have cotton candy!" Luffy cheered.

"You've never been to a carnival, Chopper!" Usopp gasped. "Then boy, are you in for a treat! You'll love it!"

"Funnel cakes!"

"All the fun rides and the games-- which I'm excellent at, by the way, being the Great Captain Usopp-sama!"

"Hot dogs!"

"Really? Oooh, have you won lots of prizes?"

"Caramel apples!"

"You bet! I once cleaned a carnival completely out of all their prizes because I won so much! They called me 'The Great Usopp-sama, Master of Carnival Games!'"

"So yummy!"

"WOW!"

The rest of the crew watched the three youngest members babble excitedly, all three of them practically bouncing up and down with excitement...or in Luffy's case, actually doing it. Finally after a few moments of silence Nami spoke up.

"So...I take it we're going?"

"Ah." Zoro agreed.

"Think maybe someone should stop them before they hurt themselves?"

"Ah." The swordsman shrugged.

"It sounds so cool! I wanna go too!" Taichi cheered excitedly. "Can I come with you guys?"

Luffy blinked down at the boy for a moment before beaming and nodding. "Sure!"

"As long as your parents say it's okay." Nami added.

"Mother? Can I go with them, please?" Taichi pleaded as he turned to his mother, clasping his fingers beneath his chin.

Before Nanasawa could answer, Haku stepped forward. "I'm afraid that's impossible, Master Taichi. All those crowds would be far too much stress for you."

Taichi pouted. "Aw, but Haku--"

"Even if it wasn't, you couldn't go, remember? You have an appointment with the doctor today." The man said firmly, his frigid gaze meeting the lad's.

Under Haku's gaze Taichi seemed to wilt, a huge weight seeming to settle on his shoulders as his smile faded slightly. "Oh...oh yeah, I forgot."

Nanasawa frowned. "Oh dear, that is a problem...but I'm afraid if Haku is right your health does come first, dear." She said, only absently noting Luffy's moan of disappointment in the background.

"Yeah...it's alright, I understand." Taichi murmured quietly. He turned to face the Straw Hats with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry I can't come, everyone. I'll try to see you all later, alright?"

"Awwww, alright." Luffy's shoulders slumped a bit before he smiled again. "But that means you've got to make sure you come with us tomorrow, alright?"

Taichi grinned. "Sure, I'd love to!"

Sanji turned to Miho, giving a small bow. "Would you care to join us, Miho-san?" He asked, raising a brow at her.

The dark-haired girl shook her head as she folded her arms before her. "No thanks. I've seen it all before, it's not like this whole thing is new to me or anything. Besides, I've got other things to do."

"Ah, what a shame. I suppose we shall see you all later then?" Robin asked.

Shigeru nodded. "Of course, we'll see you after the ceremony."

"You all have fun now!" Nanasawa said with a smile and a light wave. The Straw Hats all chorused their goodbyes, and with that they headed off into the city.

---

"SUGOI!" Luffy gasped, his eyes positively shining with amazement as he took in the sight of the town square.

"So cool!" Chopper agreed, jumping up and down as he tried to get a good look at everything.

They had a right to get excited, as the town square was indeed an amazing sight. A large assortment of brightly colored stands had been set up; some giving off inviting aromas while others had great big plushies hanging from them on display. The plushies were clearly meant as prizes for various games. The rides were placed among these stands, great hulking, spinning monsters of brightly colored steel that whirled their laughing riders through the air. Shimmering decorations set to the festivals theme were hung everywhere, leaving nothing but the great statue of the Celestial Maiden herself that was set at the center of the square untouched. At the far end of this a great stage was set up, which was presumably the place where the opening ceremony would be taking place.

"Food!" Luffy cheered, making as if to run for the nearest stand. Fortunately, Zoro managed to grab hold of the back of the boy's vest and hold him back.

"Oi, hold up for a second." He growled. "There's more people here than there were yesterday, we wouldn't see you again until the end of this thing if you ran off."

"FoodfoodfoodFOOD!" Luffy drooled, apparently missing Zoro's explanation completely as he struggled to reach the confections.

Zoro sighed, glancing back towards the rest of the crew. "Well?"

"I wanna go ride some of the rides!" Chopper squealed, his eyes wide.

"Yeah, me too!" Usopp cheered. Except then he actually looked at the hulking, whirling machines of death. "Er...on second thought...Chopper, are you sure you want to ride those things? They look pretty scary..."

Chopper stared up at the huge, spinning machines. He swallowed. "I...er...they do look scary..." He glanced down at his hooves. "B-but...I'm sure I'll be okay as long as I'm with you, right Usopp? I'm sure you've ridden on tons of big rides!" He said, gazing up at Usopp and beaming.

Usopp glanced down at Chopper, then swallowed. "Uh...er...of course! I, Usopp, am the Master of Carnival Rides!"

He was also the Master of Lying Through His Teeth, as Usopp could honestly say he'd never ridden such crazy contraptions in his life, but Chopper didn't need to know that.

"Really?" Chopper gasped, eyes wide. "Great! Come on, let's go!"

"W-wait, hold on a second!" Usopp turned back to Nami, trying to ignore how heavily he was suddenly sweating. Sure, it was hot, but not that hot. "Er, Nami, when should we meet back?"

The navigator frowned, looking thoughtful for a moment. "Hmm..." She tapped her chin, reaching out absently with her other hand to snatch Sanji's arm before he could wander off in a cloud of hearts towards the gaggle of girls in the other direction. "Well, how does meeting back here after the ceremony sound?"

"Sounds good." Zoro said with a shrug.

"That seems like a fine plan, Navigator-san." Robin drawled.

"A-ah..." Usopp was trying to think of something to keep himself from actually having to ride any carnival rides, but couldn't think of anything.

"Alright then!" Nami said with a smile. "Here's some belli to spend while you're there..." She quickly distributed a few belli bills into Zoro and Usopp's waiting palms. "Now go on, shoo!"

Luffy and Chopper didn't need to be told twice. With similar whoops both rushed off in opposite directions, Zoro and Usopp in tow.

Nami shook her head. "I'm far too lenient with them, I swear, I spoil them so much..." She murmured, though she was smiling.

"Nami-san is so generous!" Sanji cooed, as the girls apparently out of sight now and thus forgotten.

The navigator rolled her eyes before turning her attention to Robin. "Would you like to come with us, Robin?"

"No, thank you for the offer though." The dark-haired woman declined with a shake of her head. "I have some things I'd like to do, and I'm sure you and Cook-san would much rather enjoy the festival."

Nami frowned. "Are you sure?"

Robin smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. Now go on and enjoy the festivities."

"Robin-chan is so generous!" Sanji said in a singsong tone before turning to Nami. "Shall we, my sweet?" He asked, offering his arm to her.

The navigator rolled her eyes and pushed his arm away, though she was still smiling in spite herself. "Yes, Sanji-kun, let's go. Have fun, Robin!" She called over her shoulder as the two turned and walked towards the festival together.

Robin chuckled to herself before turning back towards the city. "Indeed...I think a trip down memory lane may serve me well..." She murmured before vanishing into the crowd.

Sanji and Nami made their way through the crowds, observing the sights and sounds. Or rather, Nami was observing the carnival. Sanji seemed mildly interested, but he seemed more content to observe the many females going to the carnival. Nami would often point something of interest out and half the time Sanji would take note, but the other half of the time he seemed to completely miss what was said in favor of a pretty girl.

Nami eventually paused under the shade of one of the carnival stands, fanning herself with her hand. It was incredibly hot that day, and the sun beat down upon her without mercy. Granted, it wasn't as bad as Alabasta, but she was getting quite hot and rather thirsty.

Sanji frowned, brow furrowing in concern. "Are you alright, my sweet?"

The navigator nodded as she fanned herself again. "Yes, yes, I'm fine, it's just hot, that's all."

"Ah! I shall get a parasol to shade your beautiful face from the sun's unforgiving rays!" The chef declared, making as if to go do just that.

"No, no, that's fine." Nami said, waving her hand in a dismissive manner. "But..." She added, fluttering her eyelashes. "I certainly wouldn't mind an ice cold drink..."

"Anything for you, Nami-san!" Sanji crowed before heading off towards a nearby lemonade stand in a flurry of hearts.

The navigator shook her head, though her eyes twinkled with amusement. Really, it was amazing how much control she had over the chef. She could ask him to throw himself into the ocean if she wanted, and he probably would really do it, too! In all honesty, she'd be lying if she said it didn't make her feel at least a bit special. She had never had someone who had been willing to do so much for her in entire life, it was really amazing.

Nami smiled to herself as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, watching as the chef accepted the tall glass of lemonade with a nod, though he looked a bit sad that it was not his own concoction that was to be giving the navigator. However, since he couldn't exactly make anything for her out here, it would have to do.

He turned and made as if to head back to her...and was then promptly distracted by a young lady in a cute jean miniskirt walking past. The chef's eye promptly turned into a heart and he rushed over, getting down on one knee and taking her hand to kiss it.

Nami watched this, brow furrowing slightly. There he went again...sure, he treated her like a queen and constantly showered her with love and affection, but he did that with every pretty girl he laid eyes on. That hardly made her any more special than the rest of them. She knew it was petty, but she sort of wished the chef would stop. She truly appreciated his attentions...but she wished he would just focus them on her, not every pretty thing he laid eyes upon.

Was that the only reason he did it? Because she was a pretty face? Was that all?

She sighed as she watched the other girl smack the chef away from her and continue on. Sanji looked heartbroken for all of a few seconds, but then he remembered the lemonade in his hands and promptly brightened and continued on his way once more.

"Here you are, my lovely lady." He said, offering the drink to her with a flourishing bow.

Nami took it was a smile and a nod. "Ah, perfect! Thank you, Sanji-kun!" She said before taking a sip. "Mm, this is good...your drinks are better, though."

"You're very welcome, Nami-san." Sanji said with a nod before turning away and doing an odd sort of dance. "Nami-san complimented me!"

The navigator laughed at this, taking another sip of her lemonade before taking Sanji's arm and beginning to drag him along. "Come on Sanji-kun, let's move on."

"Mellorine!"

"Step right up! Step right up! Do you have what it takes to win one of these one-of-a-kind plushies? All you have to do is knock down these three bottles with this here ball! That's right, just these three bottles!" A young woman at one of the booths called out, trying to get them to play her game.

Nami paused, gazing up at the booth. Her eyes finally settled on a small, fuzzy orange cat plush. "Awww, it's so cute!" She gasped, pointing at it.

"Beauty, ain't it? That's a one of a kind plush, there. Probably worth quite a few belli, if I do say so myself." The girl working at the booth said.

"Is that so? And what's a dazzling beauty like yourself doing trying to give them away as prizes?" Sanji inquired, leaning towards her a bit and flashing a charming smile.

The girl giggled. "Oh, you know, just trying to earn a bit of extra money, that's all." She said, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder as she spoke.

"I see..." Sanji said, stroking his chin. "What a shame, a lovely lady like yourself deserves far better conditions, especially on a day like today."

"Oh, I'm fine. Don't worry about me!" The girl said, waving her hand nonchalantly.

Nami watched this all with narrowed eyes for a moment before slamming her palm down on the counter. "The plushie's worth some money, right?"

The girl seemed a bit startled, but she smiled anyway. "Yes, that's right."

"And it's certainly cute..." Nami suddenly turned and took hold of Sanji's arm, batting her eyelashes. "Oh, Sanji-kun? Could you win it for me?"

The cook's visible eye promptly turned into a heart. "Anything for you, Nami-swaaaaaaan!"

The girl at the counter chuckled, shaking her head. "Well, if you want to, it's a hundred belli a pop." Sanji quickly forked over the belli coins and the girl placed a softball in his hand, then stepped aside to reveal the three milk bottles stacked up behind her. "Don't worry if you don't get it the first try, it's tougher than it looks." She warned.

Sanji nodded, then stared at the pins for a moment, concentrating. Then he pulled his arm back, tensed, and threw the ball with all his might.

BANG! All three bottles were knocked away with a clatter of glass, the ball's momentum carrying it far enough to hit the back wall. The girl stared in shock for a moment, then threw back her head and laughed.

"Wow! Where'd you learn to throw like that, Sanji-kun?" Nami asked, her eyes widening.

The cook grinned. "Just because I'm not that stupid Long Nose doesn't mean I have bad aim." He said as he took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it in one fluid motion.

The girl who was running the booth laughed and applauded. "Well, great job! I'd say you definitely earned this!" She said, reaching up to take down the orange cat plush and hand it to Sanji.

"Thank you, my dear." Sanji nodded as he took it before turning to Nami and offering it to her. "A gift to a lady whom I know is far more graceful than any cat and ten times more beautiful." He said with a smile.

"Oh, Sanji-kun..." Nami murmured, reaching out to take the plushie and hug it. It felt soft and warm in her hands, the sun-warmed orange fur feeling nice against her arms. "It's so adorable, I love it! Thank you, Sanji-kun."

The girl at the booth smiled. "Well, glad to see you like it. Now you two get going, I've got more customers!" She said, motioning for them to move on.

Both Sanji and Nami nodded. "Yes, thank you for the game and the plushie, miss. Have a nice day!" Nami said, grabbing Sanji's arm and dragging him along before he could do anything more than offer a similar goodbye over his shoulder.

"You too. Enjoy the rest of the festival!" The girl called after them.

Nami continued dragging Sanji along, hugging the toy to her chest with her other arm. "Well Sanji-kun, that was..." She trailed off as she glanced over at the cook, feeling her heart sink as she realized he was still looking back at the girl at the booth.

The navigator frowned for a moment, and then tugged on Sanji's arm in an attempt to get his attention. "Sanji-kun?"

"Ah, yes, Nami-san?" Sanji asked, glancing down at her.

Nami squeezed the cat plush to her chest, biting her lip for a moment. It was stupid, it really was, she shouldn't even be asking! But she had to know.

"What do I mean to you?"

The cook stood there for a moment, blinking. "Ah, Nami-san! To me, you are my Goddess! My life! Without you, where would my purpose for living be? The world is only sweet because your beauty is here to shine over the earth! You--"

"You say that to every girl that you meet, Sanji." Nami said, cutting him off. The cook paused, apparently unsure of what to say to that, so the navigator continued. "You always say that. So how do I know you're serious when you say that to me?" She bit her lip, looking away from him.

"Am I just a pretty face to you like the rest of them?"

Sanji stood there in shock for a moment. Then he shook his head looking pained. "Oh, no, Nami-san...I..I never, ever thought of you as just a pretty face." He said, all trace of his singsong tone gone. He reached down to take one of her hands in both of his, just as he had the other day. "Please, Nami-san, you have to believe me...I know I say those things to a lot of girls, but to you...it's different." He murmured, gazing down at her.

Nami kept her eyes trained to the ground, focused on the dirty bricks and concrete that made up the road.

"Nami-san...please, look at me." The chef pleaded. After a few seconds of silence the navigator tentatively gazed up into Sanji's eyes, honey-brown meeting sapphire.

"Nami-san...I know I say a lot of things to other girls...but to you I can honestly say, without a doubt, that you mean everything to me. If I could, I would give you the whole world if only to see you smile. Even if I had to lay my life down for you, I would without a second thought, because I cannot imagine a world without you. Please, believe me when I say...my love for you...is greater than anything."

The ginger-haired navigator stared up at him for a moment, eyes searching. Then she gave a small smile. "Really?"

The cook smiled back. "I swear it."

Nami sighed, closing her eyes. It felt as if a great weight had just been lifted from her heart, finally cast away. "Alright. I believe you."

Sanji grinned around his cigarette. "Thank you, Nami-san." He said with a small bow.

The navigator giggled, reaching out and hooking her arm in Sanji's. "Right then, let's check out the rest of this carnival! I'm sure there has to be something of interest in this dump!"

"Yes, Nami-san!"

---

"Wow, that was so much fun!" Chopper exclaimed as he and Usopp stumbled off of the Tilt-A-Whirl, nearly bumping into each other as they did so. The reindeer's pink hat was off kilter, and he was wearing an excited, but dazed sort of expression.

"Y-yeah...fun..." Usopp mumbled. While Chopper looked excited, Usopp looked like he was only just recovering from a shock of sheer terror. His normally olive-toned skin was rather pale, his eyes wide, and he would twitch on occasion.

Finally Chopper shook his head to clear it and adjusted his hat, laughing. "I don't think I've ever had this much fun in my life! Isn't this great, Usopp?" He asked, beaming up at the sharpshooter.

"Ah-ah...yeah..." Usopp groaned, looking slightly green and still dizzy.

The reindeer frowned. "Usopp? Are you okay?"

"Y-yeah, of course, don't worry about me!" Usopp said with a weak laugh, clutching at his stomach.

"You look sick. You should sit down." The reindeer said, reaching up to take the boy's hand and lead him over to the bench. Usopp collapsed onto it with a groan, still shaking.

Chopper sat down next to the sniper and pulled off his blue backpack. "Are you feeling nauseous?" He asked, glancing over at Usopp worriedly.

The sharpshooter gave a weak nod and Chopper dug into the pack for a moment before pulling out two pills and placing them in Usopp's palm. "Here, take those."

Usopp swallowed the pills with a groan, and then fell back again.

Chopper sighed. "I thought you said you were the Master of Carnival Rides, Usopp! Why are you getting sick?"

The sharpshooter glanced down at Chopper for a moment before giving a nervous laugh. "I am! Don't get me wrong, I love carnival rides! I must've just eaten too much at breakfast, that's all."

"Oh...well, okay! Once you're feeling better we can go ride some more rides!" Chopper said, beaming up at Usopp. The marksman flashed a weak grin in return, though mentally he was praying he'd get lucky and Chopper's medicine wouldn't work too fast...

The two sat in silence for awhile before Chopper suddenly hopped off of the bench. Usopp glanced down at him questioningly. "I have to go to the bathroom, I'll be right back." The reindeer explained.

He walked a few feet ahead before pausing and glancing around. "But where isthe bathroom?" He wondered aloud.

Chopper looked around for a few seconds, and then his ears suddenly pricked up as he caught the sound of someone clearing his throat. He turned around to see a man, or at least he thought it was a man, standing before him. The man was clad in a tall, gray trenchcoat, and Chopper couldn't quite make out his face from behind his collar and under the shadow of his hat. The reindeer blinked up at the man for a moment, his blue nose twitching. This guy smelled sort of familiar...

"You're looking for the bathrooms?" He asked in a quiet, raspy sort of voice.

"Oh, um, yes." Chopper said, nodding quickly.

The man stared at him for a moment; then gestured between two booths to an alleyway. "Go down that alleyway until you find a big, metal door. Turn that way, you'll find them."

"Thanks, mister!" Chopper chirped before scurrying off.

The man did not reply, he simply vanished back into the crowd.

Usopp saw the entire thing, blinking. "Well, that was kind of weird..." He commented, glancing around. "I could have sworn earlier I heard the bathrooms were in the...other...direction... He trailed off, blinking as he glanced over his shoulder. Just beyond a few booths was a sign that said "Restrooms", pointing in the exact opposite direction that Chopper had headed.

"Crap..." Usopp muttered before getting to his feet and running after the reindeer into the alleyway.

"Oi, Chopper, wait up! You're going the wrong way! Chopper!"

---

"Okay, let's see here...hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, pretzels, funnel cake...yeah, I think I got it all." Zoro muttered as he glanced over all the food in his arms. They were considerably heavy compared to his now very light wallet. Luffy had wanted every single bit of fattening junk food they sold at the carnival, and Zoro had worried if he let the boy run off and get it on his own he'd get lost. Thus, the swordsman had told the boy to wait at one of the benches while he got everything.

That had been five minutes ago, and the swordsman was already in a bit of a hurry to get back. Most who didn't know Luffy would figure he'd need more than five minutes to get into trouble, but Zoro did know Luffy and knew five minutes was more than enough time for the boy to cause plenty of havoc. He wouldn't have even have to move, Luffy just standing there could cause complete chaos without really trying.

Thus, when he returned to the bench only to find Luffy gone, he wasn't surprised. That didn't stop the stab of panic from going through him. "Shit..." Zoro cursed. Luffy wandering off was practically an everyday occurrence...but in s crowd this size? He wouldn't see the kid again until the week was over, if at all!

The swordsman scanned the crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy's fabled straw hat or a hint of his trademark bright red vest. Unfortunately, it seemed no matter where he looked, Luffy was no where to be seen.

"Damnit! Where the hell did he-- GAH!" Zoro let out a cry as someone suddenly tackled him from behind, nearly sending all the food in his arms flying as he stumbled forward.

"Food!" The human barnacle that had just attached itself to him squealed, one arm stretching from where it had been hooked around Zoro's waist to grab some of the food.

However, just before he could, Zoro reached behind him to grab hold of Luffy's shirt. "Get...off of me!" Zoro snapped as he tugged the boy loose and shoved him in front of him, his angry glare meeting Luffy's confused gaze.

The two stared at each other for a moment before Luffy burst into laughter. "Zoro's so uptight!" He laughed, again reaching for the food. The swordsman slapped his hand away and the boy yelped, cradling his now smarting hand and giving Zoro a betrayed look, "What the hell, Zoro?"

"Where the hell were you? I told you to stay here." Zoro growled.

"I was-- ow, come on Zoro! -- hiding-- ack, Zoro, that hurt!-- so I could surprise you when you-- AHA!-- came back." Luffy said, his explanation broken here and there by his yelps as he attempted to steal some food. On a final try he swiped one of the hot dogs and gave a triumphant cry before stuffing the food into his mouth. "Yuuum..."

The swordsman scowled at him for another moment. "Luffy...gah, don't do that again, alright? I was worried." He said as Luffy munched noisily on the food.

"Uh huh. Yeah, sure Zoro." Luffy said through a mouthful of food before reaching for more.

Zoro caught his wrist before he could try, staring pointedly into the boys eyes. "I mean it. No wandering off here, okay? There are a lot of people here and I don't want you getting lost." 'I don't think I'd be able to survive this entire week if you weren't here' he mentally added, but outright refused to say out loud.

It was true though, this week seemed like it was going to be bad enough. The thought of spending it without Luffy there, the thought of losing the boy...well, he certainly wasn't keen on the idea, that was for sure.

The boy stared back at Zoro for a moment before beaming and nodding. "Don't worry, I'll be good! I'll stay close to Zoro!" He chirped.

Zoro sighed. "Good." He muttered, releasing the boy's wrist and sitting down on the bench. He wisely set down the food mere seconds before Luffy made a grab for it. Only by some miracle did he manage to salvage a single hot dog for himself!

The two sat in silence for awhile, Luffy wolfing down his food at an inhuman speed that drew a few spectators until Zoro's glare convinced them that they had other places to be. Soon enough Luffy had finished all the food and was licking his lips.

"Gone already? I'm still hungry!" The boy whined, turning to the swordsman with pleading eyes.

Zoro snorted. "Big surprise. Not much I can do about that though, that was the last of the money that Nami gave us."

"Really? Awwwww, no fair!" Luffy pouted, folding his arms before him and huffing. Zoro could only watch him for a moment before throwing back his head and laughing. Honestly, his captain was such a little kid!

Luffy's pout deepened. "What's so funny?" He demanded.

The swordsman laughed again, shaking his head. He reached up to knock the straw hat from Luffy's head for a moment and ruffled his captain's hair, laughing even harder at the resulting yelp and swat at his arm. "Your face." He explained finally, pointing at the boys pout. Luffy blinked, then grinned and laughed himself.

The two laughed for another moment before Zoro got to his feet. "Right, I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back." He paused, fixing Luffy with a stern glare. "Don't move."

Luffy beamed. "Don't worry, I won't!"

The swordsman nodded, then left

Luffy remained on the bench, humming to himself and kicking his legs up in the air, apparently amused by the slapping noise his sandals made. He gazed up at the blue sky, the multi-colored carnival booths, the rides, the ground, everything! It was all so cool!

However, after a minute or so the excitement wore off and Luffy was left sitting on the bench, shoulders slumped, tapping his feet impatiently on the ground. This wasn't fair, he wanted to go explore, not sit here! "This is so boring!" He whined dramatically. "Why's Zoro taking so long?"

The boy sighed, falling back against the bench. "Man, I'm still hungry...if only I could eat just a bit more." He mumbled.

And then, he saw it. Like an answer for his prayers there it was, a ton of food, sitting out on another bench! There wasn't anyone there watching it either, it was just sitting there!

Luffy's eyes widened, his mouth widening. Food! And it was sitting right there, all ready for him to eat it! All he had to do was go get it! The boy was already halfway out of his seat before he remembered his promise. His grin faltered.

No, he had promised. He had to stay here until Zoro came back.

But there was food, right there! All he had to do was go get it and come right back!

No, Zoro said to stay on the bench. Hell, he told Luffy to not even move!

But he'd only be a few seconds, and it wasn't like it was that far!

No, Zoro said stay. Zoro said he could get lost in this crowd.

But if he didn't go get the food, someone else might get it!

Zoro!

Food!

The boy sat there for a few moments, mentally warring with himself. However, as he did this, a group of guys dressed in dark blue were walking towards it, carrying more food. Luffy's eyes widened. Those guys were going to take his food, and they already had some too! Those greedy jerks!

His mind made up, Luffy charged through the crowd with a roar. "FOOOOOD!" He cried, quite nearly running over a few terrified children in his effort to get to the snacks. He finally rushed right past the guys in blue and slammed into the bench, inhaling it like a vacuum.

In mere seconds the food was gone and Luffy was actually full. The boy fell back against the bench with a happy sigh, patting his belly. "Mmm!"

"Oi, kid, what the hell?"

Luffy glanced up to see the guys in blue standing over him, looking cross. The boy blinked, sitting up. "Oi, hi there!" He chirped, giving a wave.

One of the guys scowled, stepping forward, his silvery hair done up in a spike that looked quite a bit like a shark's fin He was tall and rather thin, his entire body seeming rather angular in design. "Don't 'hi there' me! You stole our food!" He snarled, the teeth in his mouth actually looking as if they were pointed. The other guys gave murmurs of agreement.

Luffy blinked again, looking confused. "But...you already have food!" He pointed out, gesturing to the food they were already carrying. "This stuff was just sitting here."

Silver Hair scowled. "Yeah, 'cause we left it there! That was ours!"

Luffy blinked again. "Oh. Well, why didn't you say so?"

"We did say so! You weren't listening!" Silver Hair snapped.

"Oh...well, sorry about that!" The boy said with a sheepish laugh, scratching his head.

Silver Hair glared at him for a moment. Then, without warning he reached down and grabbed hold of the front of the boy's shirt and hauled the boy to his feet so they were nose to nose. Luffy yelped as he stared back into the man's black eyes, which were narrowed with rage.

"Sorry's not gonna cut it, smartass. No one steals from the Superior Ocean Three gang and gets away with it." He growled.

"Superior Ocean Three?" Luffy repeated, blinking. Before he got the chance to say anymore the man pulled back a fist and slammed it into the boys jaw, sending him skidding across the pavement with a yelp of pain.

"Good one, Sqaulo!" One of other guys called out.

The silver-haired man, or rather, Sqaulo, smirked. "You better believe it. A little kid like you obviously needs to be taught a lesson about who's in charge here." He drawled.

Luffy grit his teeth and got to his feet, fingering his now tender jaw for a moment.

"Awww, what's wrong? Did that hurt?" Sqaulo sneered, letting out a harsh laugh that the others mimicked. However, his laugh was cut short as Luffy's fist suddenly met his face, this time sending him flying back. The Superior Ocean Three and the spectators that had gathered gaped as Sqaulo skidded to the pavement.

Luffy stood there, fist raised, a fierce grin on his face. "If it's a fight you want, there's no way you're gonna beat me that easily."

Sqaulo got to his feet, a twisted, shark-like grin on his face. "Well now...this is interesting! Been awhile since we had some meat that fought back for real!" As he spoke his skin began harden and gray, his entire body beginning to bulge outward as his head transformed into a triangular shape, his eyes moving to opposite sides of his head. He opened his mouth as his teeth grew into huge, sharp jaws.

"Same Same no Mi, Model: Tigershark!" Sqaulo called out, still grinning with his now monstrous fangs.

Luffy stared at him for a moment, cocking his head to the side. "A shark man? Pretty neat, but I've already fought a real merman before. You're nothing new." He said with a confident grin, sliding into his fighting stance.

"Kehehe, you think so?" Sqaulo sneered." You think an ordinary human like you can take the power of a shark?"

Luffy just grinned.

The rest of the gang spread out into a circle around them, keeping the rest of the crowd back. Most were watching with wides, too stunned to say anything, while others were yelling. Not that it really mattered to Luffy, what mattered now was this challenge.

Finally, after staring each other down for awhile, Sqaulo charged. "Hitokuchi!" He called out, diving for Luffy and aiming to take a chunk out of the boy's side.

Or at least, that was what he was aiming for. He never quite got there, as Luffy stretched his fist backwards. It extended far, far behind him, the astonished crowd parting for it as it stretched past them. "Gomu Gomu no..." With a snap, Luffy released his fist and let it fly forward, sending it slamming into Sqaulo's shark nose.

Sqaulo let out a cry as he was flung backwards to land on the pavement again, the crowd's cheers following his landing. Luffy let his arm snap back to his side and grinned. "I'm no ordinary human! And even then, I know plenty of them who could kick your ass easily!"

The shark man groaned as he sat up, clutching at his bleeding face, eyes wide. Evidentially he had not expected this. "W...what are you?" He gasped.

The boy grinned, cracking his knuckles. "I ate the Gomu Gomu no Mi! I'm a rubber man!" He explained, sliding back into his fighting stance again.

Sqaulo grit his teeth as he got to his feet. "Is that so? You've got a lot of nerve, punk." He sneered, a grin on his face. "I'm gonna enjoy tearing you apart. What's your name?"

Luffy grinned. "Me? I'm Monkey D. Luffy, the man who's gonna be Pirate King!" He declared.

"That so?" Sqaulo laughed, and the rest of his gang laughed with him. "Well--" He then suddenly paused, blinking. "One second." He said, holding up a finger before digging a miniature Den Den Mushi out of his pocket.

"Yeah?" He asked, holding up the tiny snail.

"Sqaulo, where the hell are you! You were supposed to be back half and hour ago, what the hell?" The Den Den Mushi screamed, making the shark man flinch.

"Ah ah...sorry, Kraken-sama." Sqaulo said carefully. "We got...ah...held up. Some little brat stole our food and--"

"I don't fucking care who stole your stupid food! You were supposed to be here!" The snail snarled. "So stop lazing around and get over here now!"

"Right away, sir!" Sqaulo stuttered, shoving the snail into his pocket. He glanced back at Luffy, whom looked quite confused. "Right...well, I suppose we'll have to finish this at another time, shrimp." He said as he shriveled back into his human form.

Luffy shrugged. "Kay."

"Er...alright..uh...come on boys, let's move!" Sqaulo called out. The other gang members gave yells of agreement and followed as the shark man turned tail and ran, leaving Luffy and the rest of the crowd standing there in the middle of the street.

Luffy stood there for a moment, looking confused. Then, finally, he cocked his head to the side and spoke. "Whaaaaaa?"

It was then that Zoro suddenly pushed his way through the crowd. His eyes widened as he finally caught sight of Luffy standing in the middle of the street, back to him. "Luffy?" He called out, relief flooding over him as he jogged over to the boy.

The rubber pirate blinked and turned around, then beamed and waved. "Hey Zoro!"

Zoro came to a stop in front of the boy, glancing over him quickly. Upon seeing Luffy was fine, Zoro felt his relief slide away in favor of annoyance. "Where have you been? I've been looking everywhere!" He growled, fixing Luffy with a glare. "You told me you were going to stay put."

Luffy blinked, then gave a nervous laugh and scratched the back of his head. "Oh yeah! Sorry Zoro, I kinda forgot. There was food and I was hungry and there were these weird shark guys and--"

"Damnit, Luffy!" Zoro hissed, cutting him off. "That's the second time today."

The boy bit his lip. "Yeah, I know, but--"

"Didn't you hear me when I told you that there were a lot of people here? It's only by some crazy chance that I managed to find you again!" Zoro snapped.

Luffy stepped back, a bit taken aback, but he smiled anyway. "What does it matter? You found me, didn't you? I knew you would, so I wasn't worried."

The swordsman sputtered at this, blinking. "But...Luffy...gah, you aren't getting it!" He growled, gritting his teeth in frustration. "What if I couldn't find you, huh? What then? This place is huge and there are tons of people. What if you got hurt? No one would be there to help you! What then?"

Luffy stared at him for a moment, brow furrowing. "Well..." He trailed off, biting his lip. He hadn't really thought of that.

Zoro sighed, shaking his head. "Exactly. You have to be careful." He said, folding his arms.

His captain sighed. "Yeah, I guess so. But why does it matter so much? You found me, isn't that good enough?"

The swordsman rolled his eyes. "We've already been through this, I--"

"It always used to be good enough. So why's now suddenly so different?" Luffy asked, cocking his head to the side.

Zoro paused, blinking. "Well...there's a lot of people and..." He trailed off, frowning. Why did he care so much? Why did it matter so much to him that Luffy not get hurt? Yes, that had always been important...but not quite so strongly, not like this. This was different, somehow.

The swordsman grit his teeth. "It...it's just different, alright?" He snapped, frustrated at his own inability to answer. He let out a growl and grabbed Luffy's wrist, beginning to drag him through the crowd. "Come on already."

Luffy yelped as he was suddenly dragged along, staring at the back of Zoro's suddenly very tense shoulders. 'What's up with him?'

And so the two made their way through the crowd, a cross Zoro herding a confused Luffy behind him. As they walked, Zoro pondered, and no matter how much he thought on it he couldn't seem to find the answer.

What's so different now?

---

To Be Continued...

Ooohh, drama. Yeah, I know you're thrilled.

Um...yeah. The Legend of the Celestial Maiden is based off of a famous folktale from Japan, Korea, and China, as well as many other countries.

The story always remains consistent in that a man (a fisherman, farmer, or woodcutter) will find an item belonging to an unearthly maiden (a tennyo, fairy, star fisher, merrow, selkie, etc.) and keeps it. The maiden is not able to return to her world because the man possesses the item (usually a garment) she needs (a celestial robe, a feathered cloak, a hat, a seal-skin... etc) and reluctantly marries him. However, she always recovers the item (often as a result of her children discovering it) and she returns to her world. Sometimes her children from earth will be taken with her and sometimes her husband will join her. Once the maiden returns to her world, she never returns to the earth. (Totally not yoinked from Wikipedia, no-sir-ee...)

As you can see, my version is a bit different, esepcially towards the end, but it's case is pretty much the same. Yeah, just so you know. Also, Sqaulo's devil fruit name, Same Same, is of course just the Japanese word for shark. His one attack, Hitokuchi, is just the Japanese word for "bite". Yeah, I suck and am un-creative like that.

Yeah. Now you know, cause it's Mike's Super Short Show! (Digi is shot. In the face.)

Ow...right. Reviews are greatly appreciated!

Next Chapter: The opening ceremony for the Festival starts, but it ends up being a slightly less than joyous occasion. Find out why the Straw Hats were really invited to the Hatsudoki's next time!