Hell's Wrath in Heaven's Light
They tore into Herutsu's hut without an ounce of concern. Dust from the dirt path they traveled flew in around their feet, laying heavy and low to witness the bout that was sure to come. Robin and Sanji had bypassed the guards outside the curtain-made door without breaking a sweat, with the type of teamwork that utilized both powers and allowed them to move seamlessly, silently so as not to draw attention to what they planned to do. No, being found out would count on the young woman's co-operation.
The disoriented Witch Doctor sat upon her unrighteous throne with tears in her eyes, an aggressive hand raised to tidy her face. The female Mugiwara knew she must have struck a cord with Herutsu before she left, after their conversation about the way her life had been laid, but she never would have assumed it would have affected her so much. Her caring gaze was met with one of surprise, then rage. Staring down the two intruders now, it was clear that she saw them both as the two who gave her the most grief; Sanji and Robin stood tall and firm against the hateful aura she projected. "What are you doing here? I told you that my warriors-"
"We had to knock some of them out." Sanji stated so carelessly as he chose to catch his breath from their swift trek back into the village by lighting up one of his last cigs.
How the jade of the woman's irises turned scorching when she heard such a thing. The air that was thick with tension now transformed into one of mutual disdain, between the chef and the only woman he had ever shown contempt for. The eldest nakama tried to be the peacekeeper once more, stepping forth to attempt a ceasefire on Herutsu's side, as she held the power to either save or end Nami's life-! But she was halted by something most surprising: Sanji - the helpless romantic and connoisseur of women - made his way toward the throne with his hands balled up at his sides. "Cook-san!" It was too great a trial not to sound concerned.
Of course, the silver-haired woman saw him approach. This person who dressed like a common man was a pirate through and through. He wore the clothes, spoke the language of a mediocore thug, but he did not dress like a pirate. No, that must be disarm her, to gain her trust. Just like all other pirates, he was a cheat. Herutsu knew in her heart this to be true, and felt a surge of a horrid sensation that she had not felt since that night on Honba Island...
Who did these people think they were!? Entering her home unannounced - unwelcomed - and boldly announcing how they had abused her people!? The Tarahara had worshipped her the moment she arrived and she thought her life had been saved. She had been saved from the hell she felt losing everyone she loved. No one had dared to oppose her or scare her since arriving on Mimoza...and now this man planned to destroy her happiness just as those other pirates had!? "Stay BACK! Don't you DARE approach me!"
Shuffling could be heard outside of the hut, just as Herutsu had hoped. Yes, if her warriors thought she was in harm's way, they would destroy whomever caused her such distress. All she had to do was a make a fuss and they would tend to her. It was incomprehensible how any of her warriors had allowed the two pirates into her home in the first place, but-What on Earth was she doing? Just beyond the blond man's shoulder - with a definite grimace on her face - his raven-haired accomplice raised her arms over her chest and muttered a strange phrase, "Cien Fleur: Defense."
"We were forced to beat up your shitty warriors," Sanji explained in a very taut voice, regaining the entire hut's attention, "because they refused to help us. We need the toxic flowers you have on this island to save Nami-san. She is dying on our ship, and when we asked them for help, they tried to kill us. You're lucky all we did was knock them out...well, some of them anyway."
Alarm rang in Herutsu's ears; they wanted the Myukuchi flowers? How dare they, "Y-You attacked my warriors, and expect my help!? I don't care who's dying; you can't honestly think-"
"HAVE YOU BECOME SO HEARTLESS THAT YOU CAN'T HELP US SAVE ONE LIFE!?"
Sanji stilled the world with his voice. The words he screamed at the top of his lungs were an abbreviation of the constant phrase many of his opponents had said to him over the years, how they tried to knock him down a peg in battle in order to gain an advantage. How stupid, he always thought it was. It seemed to be a theme to his battles for a while. But seeing this woman before him now, he knew that these were the words she deserved to hear. If just to see that hateful look on her face break, he did not regret screaming at this woman with the weakness of a shattered girl.
In the beginning, when Luffy and the others had first found him at the Baratie, a proud sous chef and a disgruntled waiter, he had been a horrible man who only thought of what was right in front of him. Having traveled with the Mugiwara nakama now, he knew that his life would have been wasted and he would have remained so ignorant if he hadn't been forced to make a change. He couldn't help but wonder if he hadn't been convinced to leave under Zeff's curelty, would he have become like Herutsu had? No, he was a good person before Luffy recruited him.
He was only a better person because of his nakama, each and every one of them.
As much as he'd hate to admit it, if he hadn't joined up with his messed up, imperfect, sometimes shitty family - excusing his two lady friends, of course - he wouldn't be strong enough to save anyone's life outside of feeding them a hearty dish and seeing that as just enough. Now that he had traveled the world, he had learned how many different ways there were to save a person. His captain had taught him that. It was time the Witch Doctor learned that now.
Sanji took a long drag on his cigarette, staring down at the clearly terrified woman of twenty-one (he could tell, of course) ...She looked so exactly as he thought of her: like a young girl who masqueraded as a woman because her body grew faster than any other piece of her being. It was harder to stay enraged when she showed just how helpless she really was, "They can't come in right now, and they won't until you listen to what we have to say."
"Navigator-san... the one who Goran-san replaced while he was with us, is dying on our ship from a poison that we cannot cure!"
"Wh-What does that have to do with the Myukuchi? Why would having someone who is poisoned make you want our poisonous FLOWERS!?" Herutsu shouted in Sanji's face. Her spit splattered on his cheek but neither one paid much attention to it.
"Because our doctor said if we poison what's inside of her with these Myukuchi flowers of yours, we can treat her with your antidote, and she'll have a better chance of surviving."
Herutsu saw that look in his one eye that forced her to perish the thought of even denying the antidote for the Myukuchi. Of course they would have one, if they lived with such dangerous plant life. And since they knew what vague tales Goran had told them of her past, they might also recall that she was studying under her father to become a doctor. Gripping the armrests of her wooden throne, she no longer felt it was a symbol of strength, as a throne should be. If she dared to lie to him, Herutsu knew he would only yell at her again...and do a great deal worse, with his background of piracy. So why...
"Why would you think that anything you could say...WOULD MAKE ME WANT TO HELP A PIRATE!? I-If Goran told you our story...of Honba...how could you possibly THINK that I-"
Suddenly, Sanji's head fell. He appeared defeated, as if there was nothing else he could do to convince this woman who was labelled as a Witch Doctor to help them save Nami. But surely, Robin knew that was not the case. No, what was going on inside his head was something much darker. Weighing on his mind all of the horrible thoughts of what had happened to Nami in Zaigou's care, or how he was expected to return to that ship - his home, their home - with no way to save her, his mind played the cruelest trick on him. As clear as day, he could have sworn he heard her. Nami.
"...This time," a haunting tone left Sanji's mouth, mixing with foulness of his cigarette smoke. As he returned his stare to Herutsu, a woman without empathy, without sympathy, without heart as her name had promised, his one eye alone was enough to still her body. Dark, hollow, and with such contempt in his gaze, he truly and utterly looked like someone who the Bachiatari might recruit, and their name slipped through her clattering teeth as she gawked at him, "We aren't here to steal Goran. We aren't here to steal one of your warriors. We want what you have, Herutsu. We need it now."
Was it happening again? Were pirates here to destroy her life, just as they had three and a half years ago!? She was wrong to push Goran to save herself, now she was wrong for letting one pirate die!? Trapped in her hut as the fire had trapped her in the blacksmith shop, defenceless as she always was, cornered by pirates who came without warning and wilfully fought to destroy her happiness-Those words he spoke were the voice of one of the darkest fears she had carried in her heart all those years.
What if they had come for her, and she had ended the way Goran had?
"F-FINE! FINE, FINE! YOU JUST TAKE THE SAP OUT OF THE MYUKUCHI AND MAKE THE PERSON DIGEST IT!"
"Where do we find the sap?" Robin asked softly, trying to calm her. It, of course, proved useless when she was experiencing a sensation of repeated history.
"IN THE STEM! AND THE ROOTS!"
"How do we get it-"
"No, Robin-chan. She has to show us, so we know she isn't trying to kill us instead." Both women seemed surprised, but knew he was absolutely correct.
That did not mean Herutsu had to agree, "N-No...No, please! Take a warrior! Just one; one can't hurt you! D-Don't make me go, PLEASE!"
How Robin's heart ached for the poor girl. It truly did. But Sanji's words had only kept her focus firmly on obtaining what their reindeer doctor had asked them to. Once, long ago, seeing this woman in pain would have had no effect on her sensibility; being a Mugiwara had provided her with many new outlooks and opportunities, but the sensitivity she had gained had taken quite a while of getting used to.
If she had faced this woman as Miss All Sunday, she would have behaved worse than Sanji, she knew. Her Devil's Fruit power gave her that ability...or rather, that's how she had thought of it. If the world branded her as a devil, then she had every right to behave like one. Childish as some may think it, but it allowed her to find a purpose in a world that could never agree on what peace and justice was meant to achieve. The archaeologist had once found a way to be apart of something while working towards her only truly source of happiness in her life: her goal of discovering the Poneglyphs...
So much time had passed since then, even though, in their memories, it was just on the other side of Jaya and Skypiea. Now, she had learned to utilize her once devilish strength in a way that helped a great deal of different dreams - all of those of her nakama - instead of simply wasting them in schemes.
This could be classified as a scheme; she was acting as a lackey to Sanji's methods. But this was a situation in which she understood how her powers were helping a much greater cause.
Nami's life was on the line; that was all that mattered, "...I'm sorry, Witch Doctor-san. You'll have to come with us."
"Oi, Zoro...did you get lost again?!" Luffy exclaimed as he finished his last punch in a wonderful onslaught of a rubber fist gatling attack. With many Tarahara men - though he knew not their tribe name, only recognizing them as the 'wild people' who lived on Mimoza Island - scattered around his feet, he frowned deeply after a few head tosses around the area.
"If he's lost, how is he going to fight Zaigou? ...Well! He'll find someone to beat up!" the Mugiwara captain laughed, as if the guarantee of violence for his first mate eased his worries away.
Such is the sense of humor of the will of D.
Hand on his straw hat, he turned to face the volcano his crew member had identified as Floret. It was unmistakable - he knew there were people stationed up there. It was a sense he'd felt had grown stronger lately - the ability to recognize the presence of another being - but being the person that he was, he never questioned it. Instead, Luffy embraced this ability and simply obeyed it by following it each and every time. "Yosh!" he cheered before shooting forth.
His sandals made their signature sound as they scraped against the dirt and stones, a wild noise that always exhilarated him. To hear it meant he was charging onward, running somewhere, headed towards something in a rush - a sure sign of adventure. As interesting as this island was, he wasn't here with the greatest intention; Nami needed these guys dead so they wouldn't hurt her anymore. It had nothing to do with the wild people but he had come to destroy the captain of the Bachiatari and his first mate, Akar.
Which most likely meant their island would either be obliterated, or remodeled when he was done with their enemies.
"Zaigou!" He growled as he ran on, eyes locked on the mouth of Floret. His voice steadily began to raise as he pumped himself up for the battle he was greatly anticipating, "You will never have Nami in your crew again! You hurt my nakama! I won't let anyone do that AND LIVE TO SEE ME BECOME KING OF THE PIRAAA-Huh? A-AH!"
Sadly, the wondrous sound of his clattering sandals halted when he slid to a halt before a row of the poisonous flowers. Without panting, Luffy stared that firm stare he usually gave when he was hiding his confusion. But now, it was more so that he needed to find away around the Myukuchi. "So these flowers are all over this island huh? That's good; there's more for Chopper to use to heal Nami! But how do I get around them without getting sick too?"
He hummed and hawed a bit before realizing his only chance was to ascend over the toxic plants. Spotting a tree branch just overhead, he smirked and quickly sent his extending arms up to grab on to it. His trademark sandals scuffed against the dirt and he smirked while he backtracked a few steps. "Heh, some stupid flowers won't stop me from getting to you. Gomu Gomu nooo...PACHINKO!" And issuing his first Devil's Fruit move on the island of Mimoza, Luffy shot himself as high as high as can be.
"Ya-HOO!" cheered Luffy, flying freely in a way no ordinary man would expect his powers could. His Gomu Gomu no Mi allowed his body to spring forth, past the lush foliage of the woods and into the wind-swept sky. This put him at a great advantage; he was able to have a clear view of their target: the Floret Volcano. The mountainous peak neared, growing larger and larger and larger... until Luffy finally realized he had sprung himself with too much force and was headed straight into the lava-filled centre.
"O-Oh no! This is bad! No, I don't want to fly anymore! Stop iiit-" Suddenly, the most magical moment of his life occurred: he was struck by a mysterious creature! What looked to be a panda, fused with some humanistic features, flew into him with the most angelic wings, intercepting his possible instant death at Floret.
Luffy cried, "Thank yooou!" during his descent and found himself rolling along the volcano's side. He blubbered so proudly - surely, as all captains would - while without the control over his body to stop. Down Floret, he rolled, until he crashed most haphazardly after a fun yet time-consuming roll. He landed on his back and with relief as the rock-tinted dust cleared.
"Wow, I'm alive."
"Don't worry, our fight has concluded yet." That voice...!
Hopping to his feet, Luffy made sure to distance himself from the man he had been searching for, if only to enter into a fighting stance. "I've been looking for you." he announced to Akar, the giant of a man who towered over him in surely double the captain's size. Luffy saw no emotion through what his iron mask allowed him to see, not even the desire to wage a battle. That ticked him off a little bit.
"Have you now?"
"When we fought on Honkyou Island, you didn't use your Devil's Fruit on me, even when I asked!" An accusatory finger aided his claim, "This time, I'll make you show me what it is!"
"You do that." Akar welcomed without so much as a hint of emotion in his baritone of a voice. Then, they two charged, "Let's see how many of you survive."
"O-Oi, Sanji? Robin?" whispered Usopp to his nakama behind the length of his hand, "Why is this woman here again? Is she really their doctor in the Tarahara Village? Or did Sa-"
"Yes, something like that." Robin answered fluidly, but without her social smile.
So she said, but Usopp felt...weird about it all. From the moment he saw the chef bringing back a woman to help them, he thought it was nothing Sanji's damned luck that a woman would be helping them, and his cursed fate since it was unlucky she would fall for him.
For some reason that he didn't care to fathom, none of the women he flirted with did.
But then, why had both women - Nico Robin, the devil woman, and this silver-haired lady - looked so unhappy when they returned to the Going Merry? They weren't like other pirates; they weren't going to keep her. Besides, they already had the best doctor: Tony Tony Chopper. Who, as he had come to admire, hadn't left his task of tending to Nami for a moment...not even to go to the bathroom!
"Witch Doctor-san knows a great deal about the Myukuchi Flowers, and told us that we need their sap in order to make our antidote for Navigator-san-"
"If that's what she said, then why is she doing it? We could have done, instead of you bringing her here," - suddenly, it dawned on the marksman why he had felt so uneased by this woman's appearence - "And why isn't Sanji flirting with her!? What, afraid of a girl who could poison you for being too-"
"Shut up, when you're talking about things you know nothing about." It wasn't a yell, it wasn't softly-spoken. Whatever the volume he used to speak, it was a clean cut demand from the smoking gentleman, who by now had turned away from them both and left the upper deck. The funny face Usopp had made to match his tease fell, crestfallen, as he stared after him.
Something was definitely wrong with him...and if he dared to look close enough, there was something wrong with Robin too. Something they wouldn't share...well, that was nothing new amongst the Mugiwara; it wasn't as if they needed to know everything about one another to be such strong friends. In fact, the all-knowing archeologist may not even know that the ship she rides around on is from his hometown.
That being said, it was blatantly obvious that something was wrong and it was beginning to upset him with how quiet the two of them were being. He couldn't even stand to look at the woman at his side as he gazed to their so-called helper, who dug her hands into the dirt around the Myukuchi. She was doing speedy work, at least, as-!
"...O-Oi Robin! Knock it off! She's helping us isn't she!? Why do you have your hands on her!? ...Tch!" That was the final straw. Usopp ran to the side of the Merry where the rope ladder was laying and immediately began to disembark, muttering something Robin could have dared to listen to...but chose to save her remaining sensibility. Bowing her head, she decided that their marksman was enough of a guard for Herutsu and released her of her Hana Hands.
It was time she departed the upper deck as well, seeing as how she could no longer stand watching over that woman. Delicately, Robin began to walk down the steps to-
Scanning the main deck, it wasn't long until she located Sanji, who was leaning against the mast. "Cook-san," she replied, sounding a tad surprised...where had her cloak over her emotions gone too?
"Please...don't be disillusioned by me." Sanji pleaded. Hands in his pockets, head tossed the other way, his body showed how much he feared her answer. Or perhaps, the lines of his frames clearly etched out the loathing he felt for himself in his heart. He wanted to know where they stood, to see if had to endure his self-loating for longer.
She bowed her head again and simply continued her trek to the Galley. "No," she stated in her Robin way, "You did what had to be done. She wouldn't have helped us if we hadn't frightened her." Yes, she made it sound like a joint effort, though she had contributed nothing until the end-
Robin stopped and turned to face Cook-san, now staring at length of his blond hair that he used to cover half of his face. She paused and allowed him the time to stop and consider his words, something he hadn't done in the Witch Doctor's hut.
"I will never...hurt a woman, no matter the reason...Not even for the crew, because we will never," - his foot that rested on the mast slammed against it for emphasis - "let one of us be hurt like this again. So I won't...ever..."
"...I know, Cook-san." was all she said before continuing her stroll to the Galley, not expecting the blond mess follow after her.
Meanwhile, on the earth of the island, Usopp had changed around his appearance; his sniper goggles were placed in his satchel and his bandana around his mouth... A weak effort against being possibly poisoned but he was never one to be worried about being too careful.
"Yo!" he called to the island doctor, who sat at the roots of the third flower she had been tending to. She jumped when she heard someone call for her but he paid it no mind. Standing behind her, he asked, "Do you need any help with tha-"
"No!" barked Herutsu.
Usopp watched her with a stare that was interrupted by a few blinks. Of course she wouldn't want his help, if Robin had scared her with her powers. It was almost as if she wanted the poor girl to think they were holding her captive! That really rubbed Usopp the wrong way, so here he was...
"Hey, you know, we really appreciate you doing this for us. Nami is really sick in there and we have no idea how to save her...I know this is a dangerous job you're doing but I just wanted you to know that it means a lot to us." There, that must make her feel better. He felt really proud for telling her just how great she was being, for going along with all of this.
"...How did she get sick?"
"Huh? Oh, uh...I think Sanji said that she ate a poisonous crab when Zaigou kidnapped her, or something."
A gasp sounded from the silver-haired woman, and maybe it was the light breeze, but Usopp swore he saw her cape shake overtop of her shoulders. "She was...taken?" Herutsu tried to clarify as she looked back at Usopp, revealing her tormented expression, "By Zaigou?"
What significance did the Bachiatari captain have for this woman? His name seemed to do something to her, but Usopp seemed transfixed on her eyes. Like a jade...with silver hair? Why did that seem so familiar to him? He didn't see any woman on Honkyo Island...
"Y-Yeah, he wanted her to be his Navigator, because of something he was mad about from when they met in the past. He attacked this island called Hoshou and really did a number on the town there...took Nami even though she tried to fight him off. So we went after him to get her and, well...here we are."
It seemed so strange to summarize their last few weeks like that; there was so much more work put into finding that Goran guy and going to the Bachiatari strong hold. There, he had fought Itami and received so many wounds, some that hadn't even begun to heal properly. He hadn't been the only member of the crew too, though he knew if he began to tell his tale, he would only brag to the woman about himself-
...Why hadn't he bursted into his long-winded story telling ways? By now, he would have probably have reached the part in his fantastical tales of how he led them to Honkyo and even guided the Mugiwara attack, beating thousand of men without breaking a sweat!
For some reason, right now, he didn't feel like telling a story...a long-winded one anyway.
Not feel like telling... That was so unlike him. For as long as he could remember, he told stories - which some referred to as lies, though that was completely disrespectful to much energy and time it took to create them! - for many different reasons, in many different situations. He told them as a hopeful omen to call to his dad at sea, he told them to Kaya to help make her smile... He told them to get out of things when he was scared, yeah, but...!
He'd been through too many things since becoming a Mugiwara. It was still there, his urge to run away; it was apart of Usopp that made him, him. But with how many things he had come to see and all of the things he had experienced? It was becoming harder and harder to lie-tell stories when his imagination could no longer compare to what was right before him. Devil fruits, giants, Monkey D. Luffy...sometimes, he had learned, that life could be the greatest story teller.
But life wrote many different renditions; the Monkey D. Luffy one was his favourite.
"Was she...ever with child?"
"HUH?" The question brought Usopp back to a strange place, his lips pursing together in that horrified fashion that they do.
"Your navigator...was she with child?"
"N-N-NO! Of course not! Who would be crazy enough to even TRY? Well, I guess Sanji might, but-"
"I see," There seemed to be disappointment in Herutsu's tone. Usopp regarded her soft face...how old was this girl? She looked older in everywhere but her eyes. He bit his lip, trying to recall where he knew her from, or at least, someone who looked like her, "I just thought that maybe, our stories were more parallel than I could have ever guessed. And since there are so many men in your crew..."
Usopp smacked a hand straight up in the air, a look of nausea on his face, "Please stop."
For a second, it sounded as if she snorted a laugh...that was enough to make Usopp relax. He came to sit next to her as she collected the sap for the antidote, but kept some distance after he saw her face turn cold. He offered an expression of a kind apology, seeing as how he overestimated how much their talk had calmed her. "S-So you have a kid?"
"Huh? But you said-"
"I did...I almost did. But Zaigou took that from me too." In an instant, her hands went from weak and strained from all of the digging she had done, to tense and curled, her bones looking pained to be trapped in her skin.
That one comment alone shocked Usopp to his core, "Zaigou!? He...took your kid!? That...bastard! What gives him the right to kidnap a little-"
"He didn't kidnap my child! He... What he did to me was so...hard to endure,"
"H-Hey, Lady..." Usopp tried to stop her from speaking, as she was becoming so worked up. Biting her lip but the tears wouldn't stop...He had seen Vivi wear that face too many times; she clearly had a tough story behind her hardened face.
"I couldn't...My body couldn't handle what I had to go through, just to get away! I lost the child...at sea...before I even came here..."
"What is this?"
"What she doing here!?"
Voices... Yes, foreign, but there were many voices. Was it just a dream? After floating at sea for so long, was she succumbing to ocean madness? Had she not suffered enough, to now hear the sounds of an escape? Of possible sanctuary? ...Did such a thing even exist anymore?
"Ah! Blood in her raft!"
"Is she dying?"
No, she had died long ago...Was it days? Weeks? Since Goran was taken, since Ari and Gatai died, since...their baby...all she had known about Honba, her home... This ocean madness was just as cruel; if she just wanted to die, then why did that seem like such an impossibility!? Was this her payment - sufferage - for sending Goran to the feet of those pirates? Was she now forced to beg for death after sacrificing her lover in order to fight for life?
Wasn't having to put her baby to rest in the ocean enough sufferage!?
"A-re? I think...the woman is cry-"
"AH! Every-man! LOOK!"
"It IS! It RAINS!"
"When this woman cry..."
What were these foreigners saying? Where were they talking her? Oh, it didn't matter...she would just cry and scream out the last of her anguish until they put her life to an end...
Usopp gazed at the woman, so unsure of what to do. The storyteller had no idea what to say. He wasn't a woman; he couldn't know what having a child was like! He had never endured a great tragedy in his life the way she had...What was he supposed to say?-Wait a minute!
"Did...Did you say Goran?"
"Maybe this is why I did not die," Herutsu piped up then, as if she hadn't heard the question. She looked to Usopp and - yes, now he saw it. Now he remembered Goran's story, about the silver-haired woman with green eyes... His opinion of her had been totalled, "Because the only way I can atone for what I did, is to save someone who was stronger than I ever was... I've collected enough of the Myukuchi sap for an antidote now. We just need one of the leaves and we can try to save your navigator. Can we carry a leaf in your bandana?"
The island fell silent. From the exotic wildlife to the tropical breeze that caressed Mimoza in its summer heat, to the waters that seemed to have forgotten how to lap at its shores.
Yes, all forms of natural sounds had died, which only amplified the pairs of racing feet belonging to the Mugiwara's captain and first mate.
Roronoa Zoro ran with his swords drawn, the Wadou Ichimonji clenched firmly between his teeth. In his right hand hummed Yubashiri, which seemed to cry for the desire to destroy the man who brought them to an island that could not sustain snow, while Sandai Kitetsu seemed to cheer with the promise of facing a crew who were just as cursed as it was. Combined with his own desire - so strong, he could taste it on the Wadou's hilt - the swordsman was boiling to the brim with the urge to dispose of the Bachiatari. After seeing what these demons did to Hoshou Island, its people, and how horrid a condition they had put Nami in... Everything in his being needed to be the one to end the bastard known as Captain Zaigou.
Though, he couldn't have been the only one to think that way. Glancing toward his captain, he-
"Eh?" Zoro slid to a stop and glanced around, "Wait a minute...OI! LUFFY! WHERE THE HELL DID YOU GO!?"
...And HOW did he manage to get past the Myukuchi, and scale Floret!? Standing at the mouth of the dormant volcano, he glared down at the island, trying to see if he could spot a crazy Mugiwara.
Dammit, had he managed to get himself lost again? "Just my damned luck...I thought I heard him screaming somewhere." Zoro bit back a string of curses when the possibility dawned on him. It wasn't mandatory for the two to locate their opponents together, nor did it prevent either of them from doing so. But he assumed that with the two of them going after the captain and first mate of the Bachiatari together, it might have ended up becoming a tag-team battle.
With Luffy being his captain, Zoro knew asking for the right to take on Zaigou was overstepping his bounds. Not once had he ever taken on a crew's captain in an end battle, as it was disrespectful to take on that responsibility. It was just the same as when Chopper had challenged him when he tried to fight Kikei.
'Zoro, this is my fight as of right now and if you interfere, then what kind of swordsman are you?'
A bold thing for the doctor to say, but he knew why Chopper had said it to him: sometimes, match-ups came down to a matter of pride. Challenging your crew member for an opponent was one thing, but a captain wasn't meant to be held to the same rank as another crew member. Yet Luffy had given him his permission to battle Zaigou without a moment's hesitation.
Zoro had worded it in a surprisingly intelligent way; Luffy had tasked him with saving Nami at the stronghold and by bringing her back on the verge of death - and by deserting for those few moments she had convinced him to do so - he had failed. Her weak body that couldn't even stand, her coughing that sounded worse than any he had ever heard... for a woman so strong, she sure became sick quite frequently.
Just as that thought rolled into his mind - a teasing insult, one that he knew he could have exchange in a Zoro vs. Nami battle - his eyes spotted the Going Merry. Immediately, he tried to scan for any sign of his crew members, but the angle of his gaze had the main sail covering most of the ship's body. He made a sound of disapproval; catching a glimpse of someone would have... No, it wasn't as if he could ask about Nami's condition. "That curly-brow better have gotten her that antidote already." The words grumbled in his chest.
...How was she doing? It wasn't like him to worry - not at all - but right now, he wasn't concerned with what was considered 'normality'. Zoro would have brushed his troublesome feelings aside and believed in Chopper...if it wasn't for the fact that the original antidote didn't work for Nami, and they had to poison her further in order to attempt saving her life, and with it, his peace of mind.
'Zoro, I'll tell you a secret; I'm in a lot of pain right now. Not just because of the marks on my body, but because of my stomach too. I ate something really bad, and now I don't think I'll be sailing with you guys anymo—'
Growling, he pounded himself in the head. "Shut up!" Yes, that was what he told her that night, but it was for more than the umpteenth time. Why did that memory have to cross his mind? That whole night had been mayhem on his sanity! He had to sit there with her lifeless body in his arms until they boarded the Going Merry. He felt her fall away... He hadn't even endured that moment with Kuina, another strong, crazy girl who did so much to be strong.
'You HAVE to sail the Grand Line with us! You're not gonna die, so don't even say such fucking…bullshit! Ya hear me? You're gonna be fine! Chopper will have a look at you and you will be FINE!'
Grimacing, Zoro quickly tossed his stare up the volcano, avoiding the image of Nami laying sick in the Galley. What was he doing? Right now, he had to believe in those words he had told her! He was letting himself become emotionally invested in her recovery, which he had no control over. He had to distance himself from what was Chopper's task, and concentrate on what he planned to do to make everything right.
He'd save her. He always did.
As infuriating as it was, he had to release his negativity, he knew that. Zoro grunted with a deep breath and wore his demon gaze under his bandana. The sound of winds this high up seemed to guide him, aid him in finding the place he needed to be in order to face what he had come here for. Yes, there was something quite pressing to deal with at that very moment, "...How am I supposed to find Zaigou, when I don't even know what he looks like?!"
Hm? What was that he sen-
Leaping to his left, Zoro avoided a large pincer that jutted into the rocky ledge of the volcano. Right on the lip of the mouth of Floret, Zoro readied his battle stance while maintaining his balance. A second attack did not follow, but he was faced to face with a large, crab-like man. Not as tall as a giant, but bigger than an average man. His eyes stood out of his head much like a crab's would, while in contrast, he had legs that looked like a man's-
No, not just any man's...there were two pairs of legs. Both bony and pale, scraggly even. Much like Romu and Senmu's...
Before him was a monstrosity. Yes, he saw it now...because he ate them both, there was even perfect symmetry in his facial structure while reconfigured to work out the makings of a crab. The hair behind his eyes was even that bright blond he had seen flashing under the moonlight whenever they passed him by...Within his own mind, Zoro realized what this man was, what his power could do, and it set of a tinge of fright in him. Not for himself, but he could only imagine how those twins felt being devoured by the man they called captain... For a moment, they must have agreed on it; they had wanted matching injuries from him, after all.
He had used the word many times, but this man was a damnable bastard.
"I take it you're him." Zoro accused. Was it not Nami's misfortune to be harmed by what could now technically be called a fishman yet again. If it wasn't for her dream, he'd tell her to get off the sea!
"You asked for me, Roronoa Zoro," Zaigou spat, his voice sounding diabolical, hateful, "If you're here, it means Nami is and you're an idiot for bringing her to me. I gave up too much in the last ten years not to have her!"
The fact that he spoke her name gave the swordsman an even greater taste for his blood, "Are you sure about that? Because poisoning her seems like the opposite of wanting to have her!"
"She ate the claws of the Stab-Snip crab! That wasn't my doing!"
"Keep telling yourself that; it doesn't mean I'll ever let you see Nami again!" It was when Zaigou raised his claw in defense that Zoro figured the very crab Nami ate was now also inside this man.
Whether it was the Stab-Snip crab's tendencies, or that of the wretched twins, the fierce Bachiatari captain swung both his claws at the swordsman in quite a vicious fashion. Obviously, he would dodge it, and they both knew it too. The attack was meant to send him skyward so that Zaigou's claw could pierce him and poison him as well. Like hell an easy attack like that would get him...but he had to be cautious of the volcano.
His three swords crossed together, he used all three as a shield against Zaigou's next attack, the same pose that Mihawk had stopped him in when they crossed blades at the Baratie. Carefully, he used the sharpness and shape of all three swords combined with his might to send himself overtop of his enemy and land just behind him. Landing with a soft thud, he scoffed. As if that attack would send him to his death so soon. He was Mugiwara, he was the first mate of his nakama.
'GO HELP THEM! THEY NEED YOU! ...They need you more than I ever will!'
Heh, stupid woman, "...ONI GIRI!"
DONE! ...Just this chapter, don't worry :P Oh my goodness, everyone! This chapter took me daaays to write! DAYS! That's never happened to me before! I usually sit at my computer and write it all up in a matter of hours, but this one...this one had to be perfect. I reread all seventeen chapters and had to make sure this one was the perfect way to welcome you all back! A lot of you probably haven't read this in a long time so there are a bunch of refreshers, more of the Mugiwara...all that good stuff :)
To explain a few things, the reason why Sanji is behaving this way is because of the next canon arc. When Sanji faces Kalifa, this is where we learn he will not harm a woman. I wanted this to seem possibly canon so this is supposed to be some of the motive behind that...also, there's some SanRo stuff for those of you who are fans :) Sorry, there's no Franky in this part of the story :(
Oda-sensei involves kids in almost every storyline and especially in the movies. I realized this while writing this chapter...so since this story is so dark, Herutsu losing hers and Goran's son is an indication that there is no innocence here, there is not always a happy ending.
YES! Pandaman saved Luffy! :D Did anyone get that? I figured, if I'm working so hard to make this as realistic and One Piece-y as possibly, he's gotta be somewhere! Plus, I hadn't involved any animals - which is sooo One Piece-y too! - so there you have it :) Also, Luffy's scene might have seemed a little shorter or less intense, but it was a good match with the Witch Doctor scene before it. Plus, Oda-sensei said he doesn't let us know what Luffy's thoughts are so I couldn't go into too much depth with his thoughts, worries and such. Hope that helps make the scene a little more durable.
Did some people think Zoro was OoC? Really, I don't think so. In the same context as Luffy not revealing all of his thoughts, as long as Zoro doesn't saaay all of his worries about Nami and how upset he is, I feel as though him being concerned is fine. Especially in a ZoNa story!
If you notice - by reflecting back on My Soul Duty - there are a lot of similarities between things I've written and things in the series. Nami getting sick, Usopp facing a negative opponent, Sanji finding someone who's male and fawning over him... A bunch of small things and a few bigger ones to come later are all examples of plot points one might find in the One Piece series... I like to think Oda-sensei and I are both just really smart and love One Piece so much, with our great writing talents, that we think so similarly...like a writing kind of Haki! ...Then part of me wishes I had finished this series when I first started it so I could have said I thought of it first, shown Oda-sensei, and hoped he'd love it enough to make it real! I swear I wrote a lot of this before knowing as much as we all do now...But! This isn't canon (sadly) so we can all just grin and bear it...for the ZONA!
Anyway, if you have any questions about this chapter - that don't involve spoilers - I'll be happy to answers in my Review Replies! Speaking of which...
GreenCyberWolf: Thank you for being excited for the chapters I release! I know, this one didn't have too much fighting action as I was trying to set everything up for all of the new ideas I have...I think you can tell this chapter is a lot more 'spot on' with characters or with really focusing on all of the nakama...exceeept Chopper. Oops! He'll be here next time :) ...Uhhh...'take as long' you say...Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you again!
Maya-chan2007: THANK GOD you didn't hold your breath for this chapter! It's been...about three years! I'll know if you're alive if you review okay!? I really hope you are! Yes Nami has had some tough times...and they aren't over yet! No spoilers though~ I wouldn't recommend holding your breath again, but I can prooomise it'll be a much shorter wait this time! Thanks for reading and reviewing...and I'm serious about letting me know you're still alive! DX
Sky: SIX TIMES!? ...I couldn't even read it all in one day! I had to take at least three to get through all seventeen chapters...Wow! SIX TIMES!? I know I yelled that already but that is amazing! Cyber clap! My hero! In this chapter, I've lessened down how much I'm putting in detail-wise because I found when I went back to read that too much detail made it hard to really sit through it all...since you're the expert (SIX TIMES!) did you feel that way with this chapter? It'd be great to hear your opinion on this! OF COURSE I love you opinion! You and your SIX TIMES reading this are so important to me! I hope I hear from you again...though I hope I haven't forced that to become SEVEN TIMES with how long you waited for this chapter!
pinkcosmo1: I'm SORRY it took so long to update! Thank you so very much for your kind, kind words! Yes, ZoNa is sexy ;) Both individually, so together...Daaang! Amirite? XD I hope the wait didn't keep you away, and you review again soon!
whattup'penguin: I LOOOVE YOUR NAME! What IS up, whattup'penguin!? You tell me! Aw, thanks for the praise! You're so nice! Yeees the next all-ZoNa chapter will be after the fights, but I will sprinkle magical ZoNa dust all over the fight chapters too, I promise. Rrgh, you asking makes me want to give out spoilers, but I can't! I'm sorry! Even for a cool penguin such as yourself! I looove your name too! I hope to see it again in the next review reply, as I reply to another review from you!
MASSEXPLOSION: There will be many battles! ...With many MASS EXPLOSIONS! I'm sorry, I couldn't resist! XD Your review was so punny! I'll most likely get cyber-hit for that but I REGRET NOTHING! ...Please let me know if I bugged you with this, or if you'll MASSEXPLOSION me for not putting much a battle in this chapter! I promise the fights won't be the only MASSEXPLOSION happening! It'll be worth the wait!
Namis: Tres magnifique! Merci beaucoup pour ton revoir! (Mon francais est tres terrible! Je suis désolé!)
PirateHunter: NICE PIC! I hope I get to see it again if you do plan to review me :)
ul-him: Wow! You reviewed four times for four different chapters! I usually only review at the end when I read, so I appreciate your kind words...Can I reply to them all!? Let's see! I'm glad you appreciate the way I balance adventure and drama! I know the drama is a little OoC for One Piece in general, but we want ZoNa! YES WE DO! Uh hem...I WISH I COULD WATCH AN ANIME VERSION OF THIS TOO! Wouldn't that be amazing!? I'm sorry I made you cry! I had to make Zoro leave because I thought that he would be conflicted like that if he didn't know she was dying, and knew that everyone kind of needed him :( It'd be hard to be him in that situation, huh? But, he came through and was with Nami until she passed out...I'm sure it was harder than fighting, but that's what made it powerful right? Mmhmm, Zaigou's past is-ONE DAY!? ...Y-You...read it all...IN ONE DAY!? WOW! You even beat my record! You should challenge my other reviewer Sky in a reading contest! ...I don't know how that would happen or even how to judge it...but you both have magical reading powers! Embrace them! Find a way to use them, for good hopefully, and save the world! I will keep writing if you keep reading and reviewing! ...Lawl, replying to you was so much fun! XD
sakuramcgarden: You reviewed on New Year's Eve '12...is this soon enough!? At least it wasn't exactly one year later right!? ...R-Right? ...I hope you aren't too mad and review again!
Qana: WHY DO ALL OF MY REVIEWERS HOLD THEIR BREATH, WHEN IT TAKES ME YEARS TO UPDATE!? Not anymore, BUT STILL! You're the second person to do this and it really worries me! Please tell me you didn't seriously hold your breath for the eleven days since you reviewed! I saw your review while I was reading MSD! I remembered it while I was writing! I hope you sensed this and stopped holding your breath! Please, like the other reviewer, I thank you for reviewing and NEED to see your review again so I know that I won't be held accountable for some kind of murder charge! ...How would I even explain that!? DX (But seriously, thank you!)
That's a wrap on Chapter 18, everyone! A long one indeed! Hope to see you next time for more My Soul Duty!
- Herutsu sees Gosho
- Chopper works on Nami!
- Luffy's fight with Akar causes massive problems for everyone! (Of course)
- Zoro VS Zaigou!
- What is Goshi planning!?
Guys! Please check out fmdevil! You all owe him lots! He inspired me, and reminded me there is hope for Zoro and Nami!
See you next time! Blessed be!