There was a time when I thought that the world was a harsh place. I believed that certain things were impossible, and that I was doomed to be wherever fate demanded. But then one day I noticed that those thoughts were crashing down around me as if they were fragile as glass. Beyond them was wide open place where I could choose any direction and grasp any dream. The one responsible for throwing the stone through my prison came out of nowhere...

I was born on the Grand Line--the most terrible and unforgiving sea in the world. I lived on a moderately sized island in a small town. I never knew my parents, but my uncle was always around to teach me and to raise me with as much care as he could manage. He was the owner of a bar that was frequented by various travelers and locals alike. Our home was on the second floor of the building. It was often difficult to sleep because of the loud and obnoxious sounds crashing around from the bar below.

Every so often pirates would visit as they made their way along the trail of the Grand Line. Some were kind, some were brutal, and others didn't know or care about respect--they were the worst. It seemed like any pirate could come in whenever they wanted and do whatever they wanted no matter what they were like. My uncle tried to defend his bar many times, but the pirates would just destroy and harm to their heart's content. He was truly lucky to even be alive. Still, he was pretty tough.

I told myself after witnessing those many attacks that the only way to really succeed in life was through the achievement of power. My uncle would say I was wrong, but he could never argue too well against my beliefs especially after he had just sustained innumerable bruises and wounds from one of those pirates.

I often thought he was just holding on to some false hope. After an attack he wouldn't talk about pirates or anything for days and days. I think it was his way of recovering--of searching for some more of that hope. Uncle wanted to believe the best in people, but he didn't have that much to go on.

He was always a dreamer. He had dreams that he wanted to accomplish during his life, but over time he had put them away onto some shelf in his thoughts. It's hard to imagine how he kept going with so many dreams collecting dust. He had only told me of one dream of his, and I guess he told me because it was the most precious. He said that on the Grand Line there was an island with a an ancient wall hidden deep within the secrets of the land. On that wall there was a grape vine that bore the sweetest and most luscious grapes that the world had ever known. He said that he wanted to use a bundle of those grapes and crush them to make a single bottle of wine. Such a wine was a legendary commodity because was said to grant the bond of eternal love. With that wine, he wanted to go to the grave of his wife and share that bottle with her gravestone. He didn't know if there was an afterlife or not, but he did know that he wanted to be with her again. When he died he dreamed to see her face and to hold her again. If they were connected by the power of the wine, he was sure that his dream would come true.

I didn't know what to think about his dream. It seemed like a simpleminded fairy-tale to me. I just knew that it was important to him. I guess that's all he wanted me to understand.

Being raised on the Grand Line meant I had to learn how to survive faster than children in other parts of the world. Not only did we have to be smart and cunning to make it in the fast and violent world of pirates and bandits and cutthroats alike, we also had to have a certain level of strength and skill. I was never very strong, so I had to find ways to make myself excel in the intelligence and skillfulness departments.

When I turned eleven, I stole a military issue long range rifle and an good deal of ammunition from under the nose of a world government ship crew that had stopped at our island for a short while. The military was useless in my opinion. They served their own goals, and they were never around when people really needed help. I figured that they deserved to have something taken from them every once and a while. Either way, they didn't even notice the loss because there was so much firepower on board.

With that rifle I began practicing my marksmanship. My uncle noticed I had taken up the new hobby only a short while after I had started, and he said that he would buy me ammunition whenever I wanted provided that I made him a single promise. He made me promise that I would never use the rifle to defend or get revenge for anything that happened at bar. I was reluctant to make that kind of a promise, but the ammo had to come from somewhere.

I swear there where a million times when I wanted to run up from the bar to grab my rifle and stick it into the face of some of those pirates. Not all of them deserved it, but the majority did. I never broke that promise, though. In retrospect, my uncle probably saved my life by making me pledge my word like that.

I practiced with that rifle four hours a day for the next six years, and very slowly I saw myself get better and better. In that time, to improve my accuracy and consistency, I taught myself about the principles of physics from various textbooks and science journals. I did my best to learn everything there was to know about wind-resistance, gravity, projectile motion, and curvature of the earth to insure that I would always find my target. In time, I discovered that my skills were exceeding the sighting capabilities of my rifle. I could literally snipe object so far away that I couldn't see them with the rifle's sights.

I didn't settle for that, however. I quickly came up with a great idea that would boost the rifle's effectiveness by three times. I decided that I would invent a scope and calibrate it so that it could be attached to my weapon as a new sight. The only thing I needed to do was consult my physics books again to study the nature of lenses, magnification, and reflection and refraction. Of course, I couldn't make the lenses myself, so I planned to gather a collection of telescopes and remove the lenses I needed from them.

I don't remember exactly how long it took me to design the scope and find all of the right parts, but I know that around my eighteenth birthday I was sitting at the counter of Uncle's bar assembling everything together to make the finished product. A lot of things were going happen that day.

The complete scope was a black wooden tube about a foot long and and an inch in diameter. I was holding it in my hand looking through it around the room like a telescope. It was perfect. Everything had worked out just as planned. I was very proud of my engineering skills. The only thing I still needed to do was construct a device to attach it to my rifle. That was easier said than done. The device would have to enable the scope to be adjusted to minutely different pitch and yaw angles, so I could fire at different trajectories based on wind, distance, and position. It didn't take me long to realize that I was truly only half way done with my project.

My uncle walked up to me and threw down a bounty poster as I was staring through the scope. The bar was empty, so when I saw him pull out a glass and fill it with a tan colored soda, I knew it was for me. He set it down in front of me on top of a small napkin.

"Watch out for that man," he said, "Apparently he is in town for a little while until his log pose gets set."

I picked up the poster and looked at the picture.

"Well, we've seen tougher guys than him. He's only got a 47 million beri bounty on his head," I said taking a sip of my drink.

"Only! You idiot! Do you understand what you're saying?! Sure, it's not the highest bounty we've seen, but that amount is nothing to sneeze at. Besides..."

"Besides what, old man?"

"Well, I've been warned that this guy is pretty bad. Apparently, he's very ruthless and he doesn't take kindly to ANY kind of opposition. I know how you can be, so just shut your mouth if you see him. And one more thing..."

"Yeah," I said looking through the scope again.

"STOP CALLING ME OLD MAN!" He screamed into my scope so his mouth looked twenty times bigger.

Uncle surprised me so much that I nearly dropped the device. Needless to say, I would have been extremely upset if all that hard work crashed to floor so abruptly.

"BE MORE CAREFUL, DAMMIT!!" I yelled back.

"Learn some respect you little punk," he muttered to himself.

I took another sip of my soda, and I suddenly heard the bar door open and close behind me. I didn't turn to see who it was. Sometimes pirates think you're a threat to them if you face them head on like that. So I just sat there with my lips on my glass... waiting.