"War Drums"

"Don't worry Doctorine, I'll save you from these thieves!" The small tanuki-like creature with antlers triggered a huge surge of my 'power radar' and it paralyzed me like a heady full-body caress. It didn't look like I'd be escaping from this Zoan user; my years of careful avoidance wasted.

I froze, or my powers forced me to freeze. Even now, I'm not sure which is more true. Now a huge-man like conglomeration of muscleman and furry deer, the Zoan-user grabbed my throat and I felt the energies flow. I may have moaned indecently. Tears came, not from pain. I was crushed I'd have antlers coming out of my head, forever a freak.

The paralyzation passed. Depression choked me, worse than the hand squeezing my neck. I wanted the world to explode and dissolve me. I wanted a do-over. But we don't always get what we want.

Fainting is for stupid women who want someone else to save them. I didn't faint. Instead, with blurry vision and the sound of tears fizzling against my lips, I forced my injured arm around the grip, kicked the deer-ogre in the stomach, and was almost in position for a debilitating joint lock. But the Zoan user swallowed something, yelled "Defense Point!" and turned into a bristly fur ball.

Not sure what my next move would be, I simply backed off, into a corner of the luxurious stateroom we'd clashed inside, near the mounted head of a lion.

"Stop it Chopper! These are patients." Dr. Kureha had discovered Nami, and called her pet from the bedroom, but for me, it was too late. Chastened, my opponent turned back into his (her?) cute form and promptly hid behind the legs of its master as she entered the castle room I'd been relaxing in. Perhaps mistaking my tears for that of pain, Dr. Kureha immediately opened my jacket and starting prodding the arm where I'd been shot hours ago.

"Sloppy bandaging, but at least it was tight. You worsened the wound with vigorous movement. Needs stitches. Don't worry, I'll fix you up too."

She did, and it hurt like hell. Kureha believed anesthetic was overrated.

"Don't use the arm in vigorous activity for seven days, or you'll reopen the cut." Warned the Doctor, when she finished.

"What about Nami?"

"The girl in my bed? She was bitten in the abdominal muscles under her left breast by a presumed extinct and highly poisonous tropical insect, 'Ketsuia Casha'. If untreated, the venom liquefies the internal organs and boils the blood of the victim. Chopper is seeing to her treatment; it was close, but she'll be fine. Now rest."

Dr. Kureha covered me in a blanket on the large purple velvet loveseat near the stateroom's fireplace. She put additional wood into the crackling flames, before walking out of the room. Shortly, I fell asleep. I was too exhausted and overwrought to check myself for Zoan-related morphogenesis changes.

Peace filled my world, until it was broken.

"Reindeer, join my crew!" The shout dispelled my pleasant dream of flying, using Soru from the Rokushiki, over caramel sands. A small animal hoof jabbed into a sensitive part of my groin jolted me back into reality. It wasn't on purpose; I'd become an obstacle.

The doctor's pet, wearing a pink tophat adorned with a white medical X, played 'keep away' with my pirate captain, going around, over, and under the loveseat I'd been sleeping on. I was stepped on four more times before I knocked the animal off of me with my good arm. It fled the room.

"Luffy, don't chase in here, I'm resting." I groaned.

"Sorry Vivi." Said Luffy. Two seconds later he remembered why he'd come into the room. "You won't get away from me!" He continued chasing that poor animal.

"Waaaaaargh…. I don't want to be a pirate; I'm a doctor!" The aggravated talking(?) creature called from the hallway, leading Luffy away. I sighed. It was no good; I was awake. Time to find a mirror, and figure out the Zoan ability I'd be stuck with for the rest of my life.

After using the toilet in the washroom, I couldn't find a single change, ignoring the hoof print fading from my forehead. Dreading the necessity, I triggered the power I'd recently absorbed, and absolutely nothing happened. To say this frustrated me was an understatement.

Following the sound of screaming, I managed to catch the little guy in a blanket without directly touching. He stopped struggling when I whispered I'd hide him, and slipped into Nami's room. She looked asleep, with a bag of ice resting on her forehead, held by a rope-like contraption.

Even as I carefully put the strange zoan user down, I felt another, weaker transfer spike of ability when his hoof brushed the back of my wrist hanging in the sling. I supposed it was too late to worry.

Keeping my voice low, I introduced myself. "Hello, I'm Vivi. Could you please tell me exactly what fruit you ate, and why you can change forms?"

"Ar-aren't you scared of me? I'm a monster. I have a blue nose!" He whispered it, well aware Nami was asleep.

I too, spoke softly. "And I have silver lips. That doesn't make me a monster. What makes men into monsters are the dark corners of their hearts. You strike me as one who chooses to heal, rather than hurt, little one. That isn't a monster."

The creature grinned and blushed and did a strange swaying dance. "Telling me I'm not a monster won't make me like you, asshole!" Then the zoan user remembered an introduction. "My name is Tony Tony Chopper, and I'm a doctor. A long time ago I was a reindeer. I ate the Human Human Fruit, and my herd rejected me. Doctorine has been training me, and I can change into more forms with a special medicine I made, the 'Rumble Ball'." He held up a large yellow gumball-like pill.

"Don't let Luffy scare you. It's your decision. You can join us, tour the oceans of the world, have adventures, and refine your talents. You can also stay here and continue studying with your Doctorine. Please know though, that I'd happy to be your Nakama." Gently, I patted the pink cap on Chopper's head, and quietly left after checking Nami. She looked both peaceful and weary.

Tony Tony Chopper didn't follow me.

Inside, I was bursting. Giddy. The fruit of humanity! I'd read of it when I was eleven years old, dreaming that someday I could meet and befriend the person who'd eaten it. A childhood fantasy that sustained me during my hell of fatigue. With a touch, my troubles involving compatibilities and mysterious compulsions would vanish.

Reality, as usual, didn't match fantasy, but as I fought to keep from radiating undue joy, a major phobia of mine vanished. If I kept absorbing the quality of 'Humanity' from Chopper, I'd never become a zoan-based abomination. I might even avoid death-by-logia. The smile wouldn't leave my face, and already that poor reindeer had become a friend. He'd saved my life.

Too worked up to rest, I wandered the castle until Dr. Kureha came and collected me. Nami was awake, and so, story time. As Luffy and Chopper played the hide-and-seek version of the 'become-my-Nakama' game, we women gossiped about ancient history. Specifically, Dr. Hiluluk's impossible dream of healing Drum Country, and how it related with Tony Tony Chopper.

In my travels, I'd heard about and directly witnessed hundreds of pirate flags. All symbols. The flag flying above Drum Castle, a skull with cherry blossoms (that I first mistook as pink reindeer hoof prints) symbolized miraculous healing. A doctor's flag. Such a contrast against the usual skulls of death, destruction, debauchery, and right-by-might. Luffy's flag only meant 'fun', and though it symbolized a reunion, comradeship through a Straw Hat, even that personal journey paled against Hiluluk's audacity in healing a collective psyche. Even as a ruler of men, a princess, a part of me felt humbled against that sentiment.

Isshi-20. Dr. Kureha mentioned them, and I remembered being told as a child of Drum's wonderful, famous cadre of doctors. Their downfall, a mere footnote in Hiluluk's tale, connected with the diplomatic history of Drum Island I'd been forced into memorizing as a royal child.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, he's here! Wapol is here!" Chopper screeched into the sick room, hysterical.

"Well, I'm going." I said.

The old woman whapped me on the back of my head. "Don't use your wounded arm."

I frowned at her. "It will more difficult, but I'll try fighting without it." I left the room, and heard Nami explaining to Dr. Kureha and Chopper my stubborn foolishness wasn't new behavior.

Making sure my sling was tight, I reached the entrance about the same time Luffy did. Outside in the snow, approaching the castle leisurely, were two long-haired mountain hippos, one ridden by Wapol, and the other holding two henchmen. The henchmen looked male, but I'd been tricked by Okama before, so I had my doubts about the weird-lipped person in the jester costume.

The entire world fell away, as I concentrated. Wapol and one of his henchmen were paramecia, and two more paramecia and a zoan were rapidly approaching our location. One of those fruit users had an extra strong signature; I'd never felt it before. My focus narrowed. Luffy and Wapol were exchanging insults, and his two henchmen had dismounted, getting ready.

It wasn't a Soru, but I gave my best speed, using every trick with weight and winds that I knew. My movement worked. The afro-haired paramecia henchman was off guard, unprepared.

"Shigan." I said, thrusting a finger on my good arm through his neck.

Before the first guy could fall, I was in the face of the jester-archer whose gender I did not know.

"Shigan." I said.

I breathed out a deep breath, which turned into misty vapor in the winter temperature outside. My attack run was successful. Both of my enemies were dying, fallen in the snow. I shook their blood from my extended finger. Slowly, I walked back toward the gates of the castle, keeping my eye on Wapol.

Whatever pre-combat banter that had been happening between Luffy and King Hippo ceased. Dr. Kureha and Chopper also appeared outside, not fast enough to witness my attack, but they saw me walking back.

"Kuromarimo, Chess, how could you fail so badly! Get up for round two!" Wapol's anger disturbed me as he swallowed his own men and chewed. Cannibalism is so distasteful.

Then he spat out a strange conglomeration of his former henchmen, looking twice as mean. "Go Chessmarimo." Wapol ordered, pointing at me. He said more, but I didn't pay attention. I heard her laughter.

"Ya-ha-ha-ha! One thousand. Five thousand! Ten thousand! Kilo-Kilo Press!" Miss Valentine dropped down and created a large crater in the landscape, knocking more snow off the mountain edges. Poor Chessmarimo didn't even get a single word or attack in.

"Hey Beth." I waved with my good arm.

A strange, sadistic voice interrupted her return greeting. "Ah, ah, ah… I'm late. You started without me. I should have taken a hippo and not one of these outdated vehicles." A poncy bearded man with bubble-gum pink hair, orange pants, and a royal purple cape stepped out a three-wheeled snow mobile, that had somehow ascended the mountain. As if to show it who was boss, he kicked his ride. It fell over. He wore a dead white weasel wrapped around his shoulders, and sported a black eyemask like a burglar, or a duke at a royal costumed ball. The dangerous feeling of strange paramecia came from him.

"Prince Musshuru, the prisoner and poisoner." Said Dr. Kureha.

"Brother, help me!" Said Wapol. "This is what I freed you for."

"Mushushushu!" Laughed the new guy. An egocentric and contemptible laugh, a pun on his own name. Already, I didn't like him.

Another two of the strange tri-wheel snow vehicles appeared in our snowy mountaintop battle arena. This time I paid attention, and noted they traveled up immense rope-like cables. Dalton and Zorro slowly opened the doors of one, while from the other, Usopp was violently ejected. Five seconds later a mighty kick from Sanji sent the vehicle flying directly at Wapol. He opened his mouth greedily, wide enough to swallow it.

Unfortunately for Wapol, Sanji had jumped onto the back of the vehicle after he sent it airborne. With Wapol's mouth occupied, the cook jumped off his projectile and kicked Wapol from behind in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and knees, and finished with a strong jumping kick from above. I heard him speak "Collier, Épaule, Sélle, Gigot", and finally "Mutton Shot!" Wapol was unconscious, with half a snowmobile protruding from his ridiculously stretched open mouth. One of the wheels was still spinning.

When Luffy went flying past me and made a crater in the castle's stone wall around the shape of his body, I realized 'Prince' Musshuru was strong. Stronger than expected. Three seconds later I agitated my wound when I caught Beth, knocked out by a single punch, before she could also splatter against unyielding stone. Beth was not made of rubber; she'd have burst apart like a blood-filled melon.

This guy was fast!

I'd thought Wapol was it. He'd been a personal childhood terror, hurting me terribly in silver-tinged nightmares. This stronger underling surprised me, for Wapol's evil personality inspired murderous rebellions, not loyalty. Perhaps the magenta-haired fop really was his brother.

As Musshuru came for Sanji, the chef did a series of back flips for space, keeping his balance on the winter snow by using the protruding rocky edge of Chessmarimo's crater while gathering momentum. As Musshuru came at him, he yelled "Troisième Haché" and kicked rapidly at his attacker's face.

Somehow, Musshuru dodged every kick and Sanji went flying at the castle wall. He crashed into Luffy, emerging from his body crater, with such force that both men were sent completely through the thick stone wall.

That speed was comparable to Soru. It was like no Shave Technique I'd seen or read of before, but it was effective. It brought to mind a passage of the singular slim manual on the Six Great Arts I'd managed to find and memorize, one that only dealt with philosophies. It contained no technique diagrams or training methodology.

"…If you find the externals and procedure of any Tekkai identical to another, know that one of them is an imitation. Only children like things always the same. Disciples who express surprise at differences and inconsistencies between personal techniques have not realized the Path is followed by effective means, and not by 'sameness'… "

The Tekkai yet eluded me. My Soru wasn't as fast as the awesome example before me, and Musshuru wasn't using the Soru I'd observed in Marines. He had achieved great speed without knowing of the Rokushiki. A natural prodigy. If I could survive this encounter, I'd learn a great deal.

Wincing, I placed Beth next to Dr. Kureha. Chopper examined her and announced, "It's a concussion. Her sleeping isn't a good sign."

"If we wake her up, she'll go charging back into fighting. I think letting her be is the better option." As Kureha arranged Beth's position to minimize the chances of a fatal stroke, Dalton came running. He handed two test-tube vials of pink liquid marked 'antidote' off, before turning into an Ox-man and charging Musshuru, unsheathing the sharpened snow spade from the back holster on his winter coat.

Dalton was also a one-punch wonder.

"Come one, come all! Mushushushu!" Our opponent crossed his arms, beckoned at Chopper, then Zoro. Usopp had hidden himself somewhere, or perhaps ran off. No one moved. Seconds passed. "This is getting boring, Oi. I wanted to be fair about it and only humiliate you with physical force, but I'm trembling with destructive desire. I'll start with that disgusting flag, unfit for Drum Castle. Try and stop me, Oi."

"Shade Dance!" A salvo of pinkish bullets erupted from Musshuru's outstretched hand, chewing up the stone side of the tallest tower. The cone-like tower top shattered and pirate flag with the pink cherry blossoms on it fell. Additional projectiles hit the flag in mid-air.

Chopper screamed and ate a yellow medicine ball. "Jumping Point!" He managed to catch the flag before it hit the ground, but the now tattered fabric contained over a dozen holes leading through the middle in a straight line. A strong wind would rip it in half.

Luffy reappeared, walking out of the new entrance in the castle walls. He looked at Chopper carefully folding Hilulik's damaged flag near Beth's unconscious form and lost his typical smile. Walking out next to him, Sanji, blood running down from a cut in his forehead, lit a cigarette.

Meanwhile, Zoro, who had removed his winter hat and tied a dark green bandana around his head, was slashing at Musshuru with three swords, holding one in his teeth. The hands of Musshuru's arms were now brownish spinning drills, and even as Zoro used fancy slashes, he was pushed back. Sparks flew as katanas met whirring edges.

I watched closely, engraving the economy of motion into my mind.

"Enough of this, you're persistent, but not at my level, Oi." Musshuru pushed Zoro back twenty feet with a double drill slam, and breathed out a huge cloud of poisonous purple spores.

"Tatsu-maki!" Screamed Zoro, spinning his swords, before the cloud could swallow him. A tornado-like wind sucked the poison up into the air, and down the mountain-side, away from us.

Chopper had changed into a normal looking man with absolutely huge biceps, and with all his might he thrust a hoof-hand at the back of Musshuru's head while the twister raged. Without even looking back, the former Prince kicked Chopper in the stomach, sending him flying at the castle walls.

Luffy caught him.

"Marimo, this guy is too strong for one-on-one. We need teamwork." Sanji walked back onto the battlefield, nonchalant, smoking.

Putting Chopper down, close for a scolding by Kureha, Luffy looked at Musshuru said, "You aren't worthy to end such a magnificent flag. The life you've led doesn't approach the significance of it's tiniest threads!" Cracking his knuckles, Luffy also walked back onto the battlefield.

"Yes, that's more like it, Oi! All of you come at me at once, you might have a chance then, Oi." Musshuru actually allowed them to surround him in a triangular formation. So stupid! He wanted to fight more than he wanted to win. This told me either Mussy-boy was battle mad, or he'd evaluated Sanji, Zoro, and Luffy and assessed their collective danger level as non-threatening.

That last one scared me.

In big-guy form, Chopper dragged a groggy Ox-Dalton over next to Beth. His pupils were dilated as Dr. Kureha examined him, but Dalton managed to sit up on his own. The zoan users would only be in the way of the main fight. They stayed back. I felt a weak pull from Dalton, indicating I could absorb and permanently mimic his ability, but no longer felt an uncomfortable compulsion.

Then the three-on-one clash started, and Musshuru's opening move created a large number of mushroom-like clones of himself, which he could somehow manipulate. Periodically, as support for this personal army, Musshuru released an expanding cloud of purple miasma, forcing Zoro to break off and use a tornado. Luffy stretched creatively, but missed with his attacks. The wind-up of his arms moving behind his back was too big a tell for someone as fast as Musshuru.

Essentially, my comrades were being played with.

"Hey, Drum Island team." I addressed Kureha, Chopper, and Dalton, not taking my eyes off the lopsided battle. "Does this guy have any weaknesses?"

"Fire." Said Dalton. "He's weak against fire."

That didn't help. I had no powers which produced fire, and neither did Beth.

"Really?" Said Usopp's voice. It came from the unstable Luffy-sized crater-passage into the castle. "I have five fire bullets."

"In thirty seconds, Musshuru will create another poison cloud. You should have a three second window when he's standing in one place. Be quick and shoot well."

As I predicted, a combination of Sanji's kicks and Zoro's swords pressed Musshuru harshly. Luffy was no longer an issue, as whenever he wound up for a Gomu-Gomu something, he was tossed into a teammate. Truly, a masterful combat.

"Ultimate Secret Technique - Firebird Star!" Usopp's bullet flew true. Surprised by being on fire as he readied a flammable cloud, Musshuru's guard totally dropped. He was slashed, kicked, and hit by a stretchy punch Luffy called the 'Rifle'.

This sent him rolling through a snow bank and put out the flames. When he stood up, Musshuru was angry. The dead animal he'd worn as a scarf was gone, slashed in half and consumed by fire. His clothing had holes in it, and his part of his pink hair had burned down to his scalp.

"I'm through playing around, Oi! You guys are done." Musshuru disappeared, faster than I could follow. Sanji was punched so hard that he went flying off the edge of the mountain. Both Zoro and Luffy were kicked into craters on the ground, and as they rose, Musshuru thrust his arms out. "Doubling Running Hypha!"

Strange dark spores rumbled through the ground, toward the depressions he'd put Zoro and Luffy into. As both men struggled upright, the attack burst underneath, trapping them in malformed fungal crucifixes. Another dark purple poison cloud was emitted, and I could not create wind. I didn't try; they were too far away for my limited ability (nowhere near the tornado Zoro used) and it happened too fast.

I sighed. "Usopp, I'll make an opening. Burn him, and please don't shout the technique name until *after* the fireball hits, if you must announce."

"But Vivi, it's part of my master plan." Said Usopp. He may have said more, but I was already moving, my stitched up arm free of the sling.

A common assumption by amateurs is the fundamental technique connecting all six arts together is Soru. That's wrong. Sure, when you master Rokushiki, Soru lets you actually put together attack strings and is just made for showing off. But the connecting basic technique is Tekkai, "Iron Mass", for body hardening. If your body isn't toned and rigid, you won't have the ankle strength for Soru, the finger strength for Shigan, the leg strength for Rankyaku, the abdominal strength for Geppo, or the flexibility for Kami-e. The combat form of Tekkai means you can't move, but the intermediate form is necessary for progression in everything.

In terms of the Six Arts, my Tekkai sucked. It limited my Soru's speed, stopped my Rankyaku from actually cutting, and didn't let me actually move upwards with Geppo. I'd noted with greater power came a loss of flexibility, and flexibility was the key to the Kami-e, the infinite dodge, called 'Paper Drawing' for the origami-like contortions. For this reason, intermediate disciples rarely used the Kami-e. Mine was exceptional, based on Kung-Fu, grappling moves, and other martial arts I'd studied. I'm sure it was nothing like the Marines used, but the principle was identical.

To advance my Paper Drawing further required an improvement in my speed, probably from improving my Soru, but to do that I'd need to improve my Tekkai, which would weaken my Paper Drawing. Then I'd need intense retraining, which might weaken other arts temporarily. Much of mastering the Rokushiki consisted of similar tradeoffs.

Even though Musshuru was faster, I'd been intently studying his movements.

I waited until he was next to Wapol and used my best not-quite-Soru, appearing before him. I didn't want a revived Wapol, and was fine with missed blows, super-strong blows, hitting King Hippo. Those were more likely to keep him down than restore his consciousness.

"Shigan." I said. Thrusting a finger directly at Musshuru's burned neck.

He dodged, and giving up the very pretense of trying to attack, I fell into my Paper Drawing, allowing his return super-punch to hit Wapol, redirecting momentum when his hands became drills, dodging a swarm of pink bullets that burst against Wapol's body armor. This was a 'buying time' exercise. For all his speed, Musshuru's attack patterns lacked formal training and imagination.

"Brother, wake up and help me hit this bitch! Oi!" Mussruru started deliberately aiming for Wapol, and I noted he'd reduced the force of his blows.

I got this new timing down. "Shigan." Oh, he dodged, but not completely. A crimson line traced itself across his cheeck, and tore a line through his black eyemask, dropping it from his face, but Musshuru didn't notice or didn't care. I heard Wapol groan behind me.

'Now would be a good time, Usopp.' I thought to myself.

My confidence in defeating this opponent was nil. His speed and power were both better than mine, but his attacks were uncreative and linear, an advantage barely covered by our differences in skill. Musshuru had also realized this, and I understood he could break both me and my guard easily. But he'd never seen anything like my Paper Drawing before, and before he defeated me, he wanted to memorize it. To steal it for himself. Standard procedure for battle veterans fighting weaker opponents with good tricks. He was that type of guy.

A crunching sound followed by a burp indicated Wapol was up, and had finished the snow mobile from earlier. My Kami-e was degrading as Musshuru realized this too and resumed his full speed, pushing me beyond the limits of my body. I felt blood tricking down my wounded arm.

Well, if one plan fails, make another.

"Yo, flaming mushroom flamingo," I panted on the ragged edge of my stamina and spat in his face. Apparently not realizing my saliva was a caustic weapon, he didn't stop it, and my spittle began eating his skin. Very painful.

Screaming in rage and defiance, Musshuru's attacks sharpened, and I dodged a stream of pink projectiles that came from his hair. Spores formed on his face, flowed and eased much of the acidic damage. Wapol wasn't so lucky. This time the poisonous bullets hit his exposed skin.

"Brother, why did you poison me? It burns!"

The pressure came off. The battle paused. "You know I lose track of myself when I'm having fun, Oi. It's your own fault for not paying attent-"

This retort was cut off as Musshuru exploded in a firebomb. Before anything else could happen, Wapol grabbed his flaming brother, swallowed him, and then swallowed a great deal of his own body. He chewed.

"Super Menacing Phoenix Blossom - Direct Hit!" Called out Usopp from somewhere behind us.

I backed away, watching Chopper empty a pink vial into the poisoned and mushroom-imprisoned mouth of Zorro. Dr. Kureha did the same for Luffy. My wounded arm throbbed. My stitches had broken. I applied pressure with my free hand.

Changing form, a new being emerged from Wapol's lips, a giant sized super-fat Wapol with immunity to killer poison, wearing Musshuru's full beard without his facial damage. This new combo looked like an overdone child's robot toy, incorporating cannons, strange pipes, and a dial on the stomach, lit in multi-colors with a mushroom pointer. The combined Drum Island royalty had massed up so much that Musshuru's earlier super speed was no longer possible. So I hoped.

"You stupid hippos dare defy the United Emperor of Drum Island this far! I'll show you all, Oi! Let the entire island fall under a delicious blanket of poison, just like ten years ago!" The dial on Robo-Hippo's stomach began moving, and ticking sounds came from inside the strange body.

Keeping on eye out for attacks, my careful retreat ended near Beth and Dalton. I noted a shivering Sanji approaching from the mountain's edge. Somehow he'd caught himself, perhaps on one of the giant cables. He looked like snow-covered frostbite.

The stomach timer counted down. Luffy, then Zoro broke free from their crucifixes, cured of poison, ready for the fight. A ding and a villian's laugh signaled the end, as Emperor Hippo grunted fiercely, ejecting a purple cannon ball from the larger pipe in his back.

Luffy picked up Zoro, and threw him into the air at it. With precision, Zoro sliced the strange cannon ball in half, releasing a purple poison cloud high above us. Three flaming missiles hit the middle and ends of the spreading cloud, cleansing it with fire.

"Triple Sure Kill Firebird Star!" Yelled Usopp about as loud as he possibly could, obviously realizing he'd saved us all.

Cracking his knuckles, Luffy approached the gigantic being. Zoro landed neatly beside him, then fell over. Had his legs or ankles been wounded?

Luffy stalked over to his giant-sized enemy, who was frozen from the failure of what may have been an ultimate attack. "Gum Gum Storm." Luffy said flatly, finishing the fight.

He stretched his fists hundreds of times, and a swam of damage descend upon what Wapol had become. In no time, the former King fell over like a toppled tree, unconscious. This brought up the question of what to do with the defeated.

The combination of henchmen, Chessmarimo, was pronounced dead of poisoning. Part of Musshuru's many gas attacks had covered the crater he'd occupied. Wapol's fate was trickier. Long ago, Musshuru had been imprisoned for killing an entire village on Drum Island by poison. This obviously hadn't worked, as he'd returned. Terms like 'regicide' and 'justice' were tossed about, but finally the King Hippo Combo was taken to the ocean by Dalton, and pushed off a cliff by a horde of helpful villagers. This time, none of his men saved him.

He did not surface from the sea.

I only heard that later, for the Straw Hat pirates were in no shape to travel or fight. We collected around the South Ballroom in Drum Castle, on the other side of the castle, untouched by battle damage. It had a velvet rug and suits of armor along the walls. The twin fireplaces burned high and bright. We were all in bandages, and forced to pay attention.

With displeasure, Dr. Kureha lectured us. "Pulled out my careful stitches, two weeks." She pointed at me, and I sighed. "Stupid enough to cut open his own legs, and they got infected. Also mild wrist spraining from too many tornados and lingering poison. Two weeks of rest without touching a sword." Zoro met her eyes and looked away swiftly, embarrassed. "Severe frostbite on hands, no cooking for five days." Sanji hung his head. "Concussion, strong, one week bed rest, no strenuous physical activity including seduction." Beth frowned but didn't argue. "Poorly healing rib injury, two and a half weeks." Usopp nodded, not disturbed at slacking off. "Residual poisoning, two days." Luffy laughed. "And finally, fatal disease recovery, ten days." Nami frowned and looked at the log pose on her arm. "You people aren't going anywhere for a while."

"But we need to leave! If we don't the Log will set itself and we'll mess up our journey." Protested Nami.

"Put our hyper-active captain on Carue, strap the Log Pose to his arm so he absolutely can't lose it, and have them go out beyond Drum Island's magnetic field. Carue can run on the ocean. The pose's attunement will be ruined, and we'll get extra time here for recovering." I explained.

That's what we did.

That night, Chopper and Dalton (who didn't have concussions, how unfair was that!) launched Dr. Hiluluk's legacy from the cannons on Drum Castle's ramparts. To celebrate the final overthrow of Drum Empire, to celebrate our new crew's doctor. They found the pyrotechnics breathtaking, and while I understood the meaning behind the gesture, healing the people's hearts with mythical sakura, it reminded me far too much of Dance Powder in pink. The color of red blood diluted in rainwater.

Arabasta's problems weighed upon mind.

So we would be late for my revolution? I'd rather have a full strength fighting force than rushed and hurting comrades. Perhaps events might have been different if we didn't take the time for healing, but life is full of 'what ifs'.

The culmination of my years of training, the challenge of facing one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, awaited me in my homeland. My personal war.

I was part of the terror of the Grand Line, a terror which overwhelmed weak hearts, I was Miss Day of Reckoning. As my precious log pose indicated my island homeland with the usual swirls, as Nami exclaim with the joy of exploration, I could only hope I was up for the challenge, that my own day of reckoning would not destroy me, my family, or my new friends.

Author's Note: Arabasta arc is ready. Going with Arabasta over Alabasta, if this bothers you, its an AU and my story, get used to it. Thanks ^_^