Hahaha. I got this stupid idea after reading a story title. It all unfolded into this. Now, you may be wondering why there are no chapters. And why this is over 20,000 words long. Uh...I know I thought of a very good reason...sort of...with real meaning...ah yes.
FAIRY TALES DON'T HAVE CHAPTERS. Yeah. So that's why this doesn't have any chapters, and thus, is horrendously long. It isn't because I wanted this to be a one-shot and it ended up being longer than I anticipated. That would be stupid. Hahaha...
Anyways, try to enjoy this monstrosity. It probably sucks, but at least try. And review, because I need feedback. I won't improve if you guys just read and go away. That's sorta mean.
And I don't own rights to One Piece, Cinderella, or any references I may make accidentally.
Once upon a time…
In a land far, far away…
There was a little orange-haired girl named Nami. However, because she always worked at home and was covered in cinders from the fireplace because of it, she was nicknamed Cinder. The nickname evolved into Cinderami. She was pretty poor. She hated her life, but she loved her foster mom named Bellemere, and would work for her, no matter how hard. She did all the cleaning in their humble house, all the cooking, everything. Bellemere got money by working in the army in the palace, and was often away, but always tried to be home to cherish and play with her.
Unfortunately, she died. Then Nami got adopted by another woman, who was beautiful, but had a black heart of blackness, and who already had two other daughters, who always left her to do all the work. They turned Bellemere's affectionate nickname into a taunt.
Anyways, there was also a benevolent (I guess you could call him that) prince. He was Prince Zoro. He had no idea that the Duke, who also doubled as a cook, really wanted his throne and to become king. In fact, Zoro would gladly give it to him, because the whole royal business was a royal pain in the ass. He'd really just lie down under a tree and sleep. Unfortunately, he had to get married to become King Zoro. The to-be King didn't really care, but he didn't want to get married. Women were annoying, in his opinion.
What was more annoying was the way in which one of the royal subjects or royal something-or-other decided to attract a to-be bride. The person who actually thought of it was the "Great Knight" Usopp. He had proposed a ball, where every woman was invited, and the prince could choose one of them to be his bride.
Duke Sanji was in favor for this idea.
Anyways, this is where our story begins…
"Nami, I told you to make this house spotless. Why is it not spotless? And why is the mail still outside? You useless girl…" Nami bit back a spiteful remark and forced a smile on her face.
"I'm sorry, Alvida." Alvida, for some reason, was the only one who didn't call her by her nickname. Nami just figured that she was too lazy to call her by any other name.
"What are you standing around for? Go get it!" Alvida raised something threateningly. It turned out to be a tissue box. "Go! Shoo!"
"Right. I'll get it now." Nami sighed, rubbing uncomfortably at her clothes. They were itching now, and she really wished she had something else besides these rags to wear.
"Bleh! This is horrible! What the hell did you make for breakfast!?"
"Yeah! What did you make?"
And she wanted to be as far away as these monsters as possible. That's why…that's why…
…She had a dream…to live in a very nice place where servants catered to her whim, and she had the best food delivered to her, and…and…
All the money in the world. Every single pretty jewel. The best dresses ever made. All the money in the world. Very luxurious baths. All the fucking money in the world.
And then she'd plant a nice tangerine grove (Bellemere's favorite food were tangerines) and she'd have her servants water them and take care of them everyday, and she'd have a proper grave made for her mother. Damn that bitch Alvida…adopting her right after Bellemere died and not even paying for Bellemere's funeral.
Nami suddenly realized she was back inside and holding the letters already. Slightly curious, she peeked at a random one, took one look at the fancy lettering, and froze for one moment.
Back at the castle, Sanji was complaining.
"…Don't know why I have to cook for the stupid prince's ball thing…Doesn't even bother to get his own cook…" The blond duke griped as he elegantly flipped a…something or other. Don't look at me, I don't know what it is. Ask the cook. Who, by the way, was staring at another figure besides him. "…Luffy…why are you here?"
"I'm guarding the kitchen from gremlins."
"Nice try. Work on your excuse more." The captain of the guard pouted as he was mercilessly kicked out of the kitchen, already missing the sweet aromas that were coming from whatever the cook was making. Oh, sorry, I meant Duke. Anyways, Duke Sanji went back to his complaining, ignoring Luffy's statement about gremlins. The captain was always talking about things that didn't exist and seemed to see things nobody else saw. Sanji didn't think him insane, but he was definitely not all that right in the head. "He doesn't even know how to rule a kingdom! He'd probably fall asleep in the middle of his orders…" Well, at least there would be…hm…tens…hundreds…a lot of girls at the castle soon, attending the ball.
Sanji paused in cutting some green onions when he heard something outside the door. "…Captain Luffy, are you still out there?"
"No," replied Luffy, unaware that Sanji was slowly walking towards the door.
"Ah, that's what I thought." Sanji took a long drag of his cigarette before kicking the door off its hinges, knocking Luffy (who was right behind the door, of course) over.
"Oooow! Sanjiii! You could've killed me!" Luffy realized that standing just right outside the door, drooling and shifting around in his suit of armor, wasn't such a good idea. He crawled out from under the door, with difficulty, and started taking the heavy pieces of metal off him. They were getting too uncomfortable.
"No I couldn't, because that wasn't even a half-assed kick. And don't start undressing here, idiot. Go and…guard Prince Marimo or something."
"He doesn't want to be guarded, and besides. He can take care of himself." These few words would make any other members of any other kingdom gasp at such carelessness of a captain of the guard, but it was true. "He really doesn't want me standing around while he sleeps. I think he said that it's annoying." Before the Duke or the Captain could delve even further into the conversation, a yell of 'Captain! Caaaptaiin!' filled the hall.
"Mmm? Oh, it's Usopp." Duke Sanji duly stood to the side as one of the knights of the castle ran up to Luffy breathlessly, still coughing out 'C…ca…captain…cap…tain…' There was a few seconds of Usopp regaining his breath, before he stood up straight. Sanji amusedly noted how his long nose protruded out of his helmet. As he exhaled another puff of smoke, the duke wondered how he put his visor down.
"Captain! Franky's gotten himself drunk again!"
"Huh? Again?" Captain Luffy frowned. Franky had the alcohol tolerance of…of…somebody with very low alcohol tolerance. It really shouldn't be surprising to him, but… "Why'd he drink now?"
"Um…I think it's because of the ball…I think Franky's upset because the Prince is probably having a lot of girls coming, but he doesn't have a girl at all….probably…" Usopp scratched his very long nose. Luffy's frown grew even deeper. He hated it when his friends were sad. He hated it even more when he didn't understand the reason. When Sanji set his hand on the captain's shoulder, he turned his head behind him. His eyes started watering because of all the cigarette smoke.
"If you don't mind, captain," Sanji started, taking out the tobacco stick out of his mouth, "I think I should meet with your troubled friend. I would like to help him."
"Of course, Duke! I don't mind at all!" Luffy, gathering an air of a very strong but idiotic captain, turned to Usopp, who stood at attention. "Usopp, take me and Duke over to Franky!"
Nami read the letter again. And again. And again. One of her stepsisters got very annoyed with waiting, and started shouting angrily. "Cinderami! Make a better breakfast for me now or there'll be big trouble!"
"Yeah, big trouble!"
"Shut up, Bon Clay!"
"Nami, I'm pretty sure that fetching the mail isn't that taxing a job." Alvida's voice travelled through the house calmly. The thin, beautiful woman stared towards the front door. Or at least where she thought the front door was. "I know you have the mail, dear." The 'dear' floated through the air with gracefulness and dripped with venom.
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Nami appeared, scowling, but inside, she was ecstatic. Some kind god must have answered her dreams! Somebody was giving her a chance! All she had to do was grab it and hold on tightly and never let go!
If she could get to marry the prince, she'd have enough money to pay for a funeral for Bellemere, and she would be able to live in luxury. It was being held in a few days, which gave her little time to prepare, but Nami would worry about that later. A beginning of a plan was forming in her mind, but it would need some acting. "Here's yer damn letters." The slave of the household threw several pieces of paper unceremoniously on the table and spoke in the manner that she usually did towards her stepfamily, then grumbled and started cooking for her two stepsisters.
She almost smiled when Alvida looked at the top letter, intrigued. "A ball," she said.
"Hm?" One of Nami's stepsisters looked up rudely. "What about a ball?" Perona added.
"'You are formerly invited to the ball.'" Alvida's eyes swept through the invitation much more quickly than her mouth could. "It says here that the prince will be looking for a bride amongst all the ladies present at the ball."
"Ooooh! The prince! He looks hot, doesn't he?" Bon Clay cooed, fluttering her…his…the eyelashes.
"Hah, you don't have a chance, you ugly bitch." Perona laughed cruelly, before spacing out into her own little fantasy. "Hm…if I got married to him, I'll be able to live in the palace, eh? Would be better than this house." Nami shook her head. Alvida was a noble, and lived in a very fancy, very big house. It wasn't a palace, but it got extremely close.
"Wait. I'm not done." The slim woman glared at her two children before looking back at the invitation. "It says that all women are invited." A silence suddenly fell upon the room, and Nami knew that this was the calculated moment. They were all looking at her, even if they weren't trying to. She smirked.
"Oh, that must mean I'm invited too, doesn't it?" She said out loud, nonchalantly. "But I don't have to go, do I?"
"What? You don't want to go?" Bon Clay furrowed his…her…the brow in confusion.
"Of course not! I have all this work to do, and if I even take one night off, the work I'll have to do to catch up…" Here, she shook her head. "It's too much to even think about! Oh, here's your breakfast." It was the exact same thing as the first one, but Perona started eating it thoughtfully without complaint.
"Oi..." This was the moment. Nami knew it would be Perona to say it. "We just might need somebody extra to come…you know, when or if something happens. Something that only somebody certain can do." An evil smile started playing on her lips.
"Oh?" Nami said in polite confusion. "And who would that be?"
"Ooooh! I get it!" Bon Clay started laughing…a raspy laugh. "Cinderami, you're that somebody! You're going to come with us!"
"What!? Oh, but I can't!"
"You'll have to, right? We want you to! You have to come, Cinderami!"
"Please don't make me! I'll have so much work to do! I won't do it!" Nami screeched above Bon Clay's loud laughter.
"Oh? You haven't complained in a while, eh?" Perona's evil smile was very wide now. "But you know what happens when you complain, right? Of course, you wouldn't forget. Mom reminded you countless times, years ago."
Nami didn't have to act this time. She stiffened up and bit her bottom lip. That's right. Her mom died when she was ten…and she was adopted fairly quickly, just because Alvida wanted somebody to do the work around the house. Slaves weren't allowed in this kingdom, and there weren't many servants going around for hire. Alvida, being pretty smart, decided that if she adopted somebody, then it technically would be her child. And as far as she knew, she could do whatever she wanted to that child. So ten-year old Nami was forced to work, more than she had to with Bellemere. She complained alright, but when she did, Alvida…punished her. After a while, she also threatened to disown her. Nami would gladly accept any old building over this elegant household, but she never wanted to risk being punished. It was horrible.
"…I didn't forget." Nami hissed hatred through her teeth. She knew Perona loved it, and loved the fact that Nami couldn't do anything in retaliation.
"So you're coming with us no matter what!" Bon Clay cackled gleefully. "Right mom?"
"Hm? Oh. Right." Alvida seemed preoccupied, and she was staring at Nami. Her face showed that she thought something was wrong, but Nami was too busy congratulating herself on her performance to notice. "Now, if you don't mind, Nami, I would like you to wash the dishes, mop the floors, and dust this house from top to bottom." Alvida stood up and beckoned to her girls, who immediately jumped up, leaving their breakfast half empty. "The girls and I have to be fitted for new dresses, and we may be out for most of the day for their lessons. I expect this house to be absolutely clean by the time I get back home. No dust, no stains. And if I find your work to be highly unsatisfying…" Alvida let that word hang in the air as Perona and Bon Clay strutted out the door, and finally, she walked out herself.
Nami started grinning like an idiot when she found that she had pulled it off. It was only when she heard the carriage rolling out on the cobbles did she finally jump around and shout happily, before quickly getting to work.
Duke Sanji wrinkled his nose in disgust at the dark and dirty bar. It was…was…he wasn't used to this kind of place. Royalty never wandered in these bars. Even so, he followed Luffy (who was following Usopp) to the sobbing and hiccupping man in the corner.
"Ana…ana…anazza beer pleeez…" Sanji blinked. The overwhelming stench of alcohol stung his eyes. How many pints did he order?
"Franky! I told you to not get drunk, didn't I?" Luffy frowned at one of his knights and tried to recall what he was supposed to do with these people. "You…you…you…." This time, Luffy's frown was of a perplexed man. "…uh…you don't want to be fired, do you?"
"Ah look…'s Captaaain Lu…Lu…Luffer…" Franky hiccupped before downing another mug of grog. "'s…'snista meecha…"
Usopp, seeing Luffy's bewildered face, whispered in his ear, "I believe he means, 'It's nice to meet you.'"
"Aha. And iz…iz…Sannn…Sanjaayy…" Franky slurred, wobbling a bit. Sanji was afraid that he might fall over right then and there. "Th…the…th….Da…Di…Dork…Dork Sanji…" Sanji showed no reaction to any giggles or sniggers, and instead waited for something he knew would come.
Franky started crying, and Usopp was surprised to see that Sanji looked a little smug.
"Y…you royal people! Always ste…steelin' th' girls! Wha…water we ord'nar…ord'nary men s'posed t' git? Muh…my girl…sh…she…left me…'cause o' th' stupid ball! Sh…sh…she said…she were gonna merry th' Prince! Like I'm nert as g'd as 'im!" On and on Franky babbled, while Usopp frowned.
"…Aren't you in your thirties?" Franky just hiccupped, sobbed, and nodded. "…And…the prince is only nineteen, right?" There were a few more nods. Then, something caught up to the other two.
"Ew." Franky just sobbed some more.
"Don't worry about…um…"
"Porche." Sanji wondered if she was foreign or something. He also hoped that Franky didn't need to barf. "There are other fish in the sea, Franky. Other very beautiful women to woo, see what I mean? Porche might have been lovely-"
"H-her nose…" Franky sobbed, "…was ab…ad…adhoribal…."
"I think he meant adorabl-"
"I know what he meant!"
"I think he meant-"
"I know what he meant!" Usopp, miffed, just decided to keep silent for the rest of Sanji's motivational speech.
"Hey, you know the ball, right? There'll be loads of girls there, and only one Prince, right? So if you can find one girl…then you can hook up, and forget about this Porche woman. Who does she think she is, letting go of a…fine guy like you?" The Duke looked Franky up and down. The knight was known for having an apparent immunity to any weapon thrust against him and just driving forward like a madman, only stopping once somebody hit him on the back (which was sorta weird…). Instead of looking like a madman now, Franky just looked like a random guy off the street with a lot of troubles and no pants. Sanji wondered why he wasn't wearing any pants. He also looked very drunk, and slightly happier than before. He even stopped crying.
"You know, he can't forget about Porche if he runs into her in the ball…"
"Shut up, Luffy." Franky had started crying again, even harder than before. Dammit. "Franky. You go crazy on the battlefield. You scare people because you almost seem invincible. And look at you now. The big man, crying over a lady he lost. How can you attract anybody like that? Toughen up! Just because one left you doesn't mean you should break down like a baby!" Sanji thumped his chest and felt the nice fabric of his suit underneath his fist. "I should know! I've been attracting females my whole life! And they all left me! Do you see me crying? Hm? That's because I don't whine!" Then, feeling that he was on to something here, Sanji held his breath and bent down to murmur in Franky's ear, noticing a fake nose that took place of his real one that was probably buried in the battlefield somewhere.
"…Are you a whiner, Franky?"
"M'notta winer…" Franky was still sniffling, but at least he stopped wailing like a banshee. He still smelled and looked like crap though.
"Then I'll see you at the ball, and you better be hooking up with somebody!"
"Yuh…yuh…-hic- yus sah!" Franky, now encouraged and absolutely not crying like a baby, stood up, sat down again to steady himself, and stood up again rather dramatically. "I'll get me 'nother gal!" He declared to the uncaring bar, before walking unsteadily, but determinedly to the door. He vomited and fell over before he could get outside, though.
"Carry your subordinate to his…wherever he sleeps."
"M'kay. Here, Usopp…grab his legs…" Duke Sanji let out another string of smoke before looking around once again at his unsightly surroundings and promptly walked out. Another good deed done for a man in need of romance.
Nami was happy.
She had been abused and was working her ass off, but she was happy. Nothing could ruin her mood! She was going to marry the prince no matter what! And she would make sure that Alvida and her horrible daughters were…were…well, something bad was going to happen to them. Nami hadn't thought of anything yet, but a few malicious ideas flitted through her head.
Nami had also prepared for the dress thing. She simply stole one of Perona's. Perona had a lot of dresses anyways; she figured she wouldn't notice one gone.
She hid the stolen dress away, and planned to take it out before the ball and hide it somewhere in the carriage firsthand. Nami giggled to herself. This was too easy. All she had to do was deal with the three until then…
When Perona's shriek filled the house, Nami trudged upstairs to where she guessed the nasty girl was, making sure to put a scowl on her face. "What is it?" She asked, making sure to butter her voice up with gruffness.
"C-cinderami! Where were you?! There're mice in here! Kill them!" Perona, although scared, still had a demanding and bossy nature.
"Well, where are they?"
"Th-th-they ran into the corner!" Nami followed Perona's shaking finger, and immediately saw a few fuzzy mice hiding. One of them was really scared, she noticed. Perona might smell something bad when she went to sleep. "Okay, Perona. Hand me a pillowcase."
"No! They're mine!"
"Don't you want the mice out of here?"
"…Fine." Perona reluctantly handed over a smooth, silky pillowcase, which Nami immediately took and started to advance into the corner with. Eventually, all mice were in the pillowcase, struggling a bit inside the make-shift bag.
"What are you going to do with 'em?" asked Perona, who was no longer afraid. "Are you gonna drown them?" Nami was utterly disgusted with the look on her step-sister's face right that moment.
"I'm…I'll…We'll see," grunted Nami dismissively. What she really was planning to do was let them go in the pumpkin patch. Nobody in the household ate pumpkin anyways.
"I can't believe you woke me up for this" Princess Nojiko flinched when Zoro practically spat out that last word. Sure, dressing up for the ball wasn't all that fun, but it wasn't the most horrible thing in the world.
"Just hold still. I'm not enjoying this either." Nojiko sighed. When her parents said they were staying over at a relative's place to attend the king's funeral, she didn't realize that she'd have to see her distant cousin or whatever half-naked. "There, that wasn't so bad. What do you think of this outfit?"
"You said that about the other ones."
"It looks stupid."
"You said that too."
Zoro sighed as he looked at himself in the mirror. "Can't I just wear what I usually wear?"
"You mean those commoner clothes? No. This is a ball, and it has to be formal. You have to wear something prince-y."
"Then something without tights at least. They really stick up my a-"
"Alright, alright! Fine! Just take all your clothes off again." Nojiko knew that this would sound wrong in any other situation, and tried to suppress all perverted thoughts as Zoro started unbuttoning his shirt. Or at least attempting to. Nojiko thought that he looked like a frustrated puppy. "Ugh. Come here."
"I can undress by myself!"
"Maybe, but by the time you're done, it'll be midnight!" Nojiko hotly retorted before whizzing through all the buttons like a woman who had done this before many times. Well, she had plenty of practice, after being rudely awakened in the morning, the only explanation being that Zoro needed something to wear for the ball tomorrow night. They already went through over ten outfits. Maybe twenty, actually. It was now afternoon.
"No tights, eh? Fine. How's this?" Nojiko whipped out a white uniform-like thing with those fancy gold things on the shoulders and fancy buttons and other fancy stuff. Zoro just raised an eyebrow.
"It reminds me of a soldier or something."
"Don't be picky. The only other one with pants is red and it's the exact same as this one. So chose, dammit." Zoro just grumbled in response. "You know, if you hate tights so much, you can always order them all burned when you become king," Nojiko joked, but worried that the green-haired teen took it seriously when Zoro immediately looked thoughtful. "Oi, I was only joking…" She said when Zoro grew a mischievous grin on his face. In Nojiko's mind, it was screaming, 'I'm gonna burn a whole lotta stuff! Glee!' This relative really didn't hide anything, did he. "Zoro, no burning." Nojiko almost laughed when she said that. Scolding someone that looked like Zoro was…amusing for some reason. It was even more hilarious to see Zoro's look of disappointment.
"…Not like you can stop me."
"What was that?" Before Nojiko could force that last sentence out of her distant…something or other's mouth, the duke burst in and shut the door behind him, startling the both of them. There were sounds of feet on stone, which eventually passed. It was only then did Sanji relax and look at what room he was in.
He mentally kicked himself in the ass for running into a room where Prince Marimo was naked. "Oh, it's Duke Sanji. Why're you here?" Sanji stopped mentally punishing himself once Nojiko spoke. The princess just brightened up his day a bit.
"Ah, Princess Nojiko! I'm so glad to make Your Highness' acquaintance!" Sanji held Nojiko's hand tenderly, much to her amusement. "Why don't we go somewhere and leave the prince alone to…dress up? I know a beautiful rose garden…"
"That's my rose garden, bastard." Zoro, though he had never cared for his rose garden, felt an irresistible urge to protect it from the antics of Ero-duke.
"It's not your kingdom yet, I can do whatever I want to that rose garden."
"Sanji, you haven't answered my question yet. Who are you hiding from?"
"Someone I helped that is too emotional for his own good."
"Oh! It's Duke Sanji! Sanji! I hafta thank you for last night! Man, you're a wonderful guy! Coming all the way down to the pits, just to comfort me! I'm so touched, I want to cry! Oh, but I can't, I'm a tough man…Oh Sanji, I can't thank you enough! How 'bout a big ol' hug from Franky here, eh?" Sanji knew when it was time for accepting thanks and when it was time to run. He ran like hell.
"Saaaanjiiiii! Where'd you goooooo?! Why'd you run?!"
"What's going on, Luffy?" The commander of the army of this certain castle walked up to one of the captains, noticing how he was apparently staring at something in the air. He was probably spacing off again.
"Oh, Commander!" Portagus D. Ace laughed lightly as he ruffled his little brother's hair. "I told you, Luffy, just call me Ace. You're my brother for heaven's sake!"
"Alright then, Ace. Well, Franky's trying to thank Sanji for helping him last night."
"The duke?" Ace wasn't surprised when the captain nodded. Duke Sanji did have a habit of getting involved in people's troubles, no matter what status they had. Ace smirked. As Commander of the troops, he was supposed to know all the soldiers and their names and their habits and sometimes even where they lived. He knew of course that Franky was trying to thank the duke. Knowing his personality, he was probably thanking too much. "Alright then, Luffy. Try preoccupying Franky so that the duke can come out of hiding, ne?" Ace gave a satisfied nod when Luffy saluted. (He saluted too hard and his hand rebounded off his helmet with a clang.) And with that, Commander Ace swiveled around on his heels and walked a few steps before dropping onto the stone floor, asleep.
Today was the day! Nami felt like singing! She had to bottle up her excitement over fooling her stepsisters and stepmother, and it was beginning to swell up inside her like…something that was often swelled up. While doing laundry, it was all she could do to stop her from prancing around like an idiot singing, 'I'm gonna be rich' over and over again. In under twenty-four hours, she would be rich, away from the three bitches, and Bellemere's body would have a tombstone and everything it deserved. Even when Alvida gave her an extra long list of chores to do while she and the two monsters were out, her anticipation never ceased. Throughout the day, she kept repeating in her head (since she couldn't sing it) 'I'mgonnaberichI'mgonnaberich'.
The orange-haired girl couldn't have known that only a few miles away, the prince was pacing back and forth in his room.
Now Zoro wasn't anxious. Zoro was never anxious. There was nothing in the world that could make Zoro anxious. Zoro? Anxious?! The very idea!
It was just that it just sank in that he was only nineteen and he had to run a country very soon. The country couldn't go kingless while they waited for him to grow up. But still…images of work and decrees and traitors and wars flew through his mind. He could definitely handle all that. But he didn't want to. All the prince ever wanted to do was eat, sleep, and maybe sleep a little more. He may be acting selfish, but still. Zoro would rather be someone else than himself right about now.
Feeling a bit distraught, Zoro did what he always did when something was on his mind.
And that was why Commander Ace found Prince Zoro in his room, doing push-ups on one finger.
He smiled that brotherly smile. "Anything troubling you, Your Highness?" Zoro grunted in response. "I'm asking because I can't help noticing that you're doing one-finger push-ups before the ball." There was just something about Ace that made you want to pour out all your feelings to him, like you would to a good brother. Zoro broke down to this something that Ace had, sighed, and sat down cross-legged on the floor.
"I don't want to be a king." He said simply. There was a few minutes of silence with Zoro staring at Ace and Ace smiling benevolently at Zoro. He realized that he should continue. "I mean, I'm only nineteen. Maybe this kingdom needs a king. But my mom's not dead yet, right? Can't she do it?" There was more silence, and though Ace was still smiling, Zoro couldn't help but feel that this was the kind of silence that disapproved of whatever you were saying. "At least she would be a better ruler than I could be. She sort of has experience…I guess. Plus, I don't want to get married. I don't believe in that 'love at first sight' shit, and if I am going to be married, it's gonna be to somebody who I actually know and like. Not somebody that I just happened to meet at a stupid dance and just happened to like what I saw." Zoro sighed. "I'd rather be a knight," he admitted, before falling into silence once again. Ace's smile was still frozen on his face. Zoro frowned. He finally noticed that something was wrong…
But luckily for Ace, he woke up at that moment, clapped his hand onto Zoro's shoulder roughly, and in a man-to-man kind of way, said, "Sometimes people just have to shoulder responsibility." Ace's face was grave. This was because, as a commander, he often felt responsible for those tears from family and friends on the graves of deceased knights. These things happened when you go out to war, and even though Ace felt that he was supposed to harden after all those deaths and funerals he saw, instead he started bearing the weights on his back. Like…wosshisname…Atlas and the world. Right now, he recognized that invisible burden on the prince, and passed on what knowledge he could in a single sentence, before walking away, satisfied on a job well done.
Zoro slowly stood up again. He knew what that sentence meant. It meant that even Ace expected him to become king and to make great decisions, like his father supposedly did.
Zoro felt that he should go out and train with his swords.
"Cinderami! Hurry up! It's starting soon, and I don't want to be late because of you!" Perona's naggy voice rang through the estate once again. Nami slowly walked down the stairs, scowling, as she met with the three at the front door. Now she was beginning to have doubts. Bon Clay did not worry her, but Perona did. Even if she was a bitch, she was a bit pretty…with her black dress…and those neat laces…Nami suddenly felt that with pretty girls like Perona out there, the prince certainly wouldn't pick someone as common looking as her. The dress she picked out and hid in the carriage was dazzling, of course, but…
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming." Alvida looked up at her adopted daughter, and finally looked like he actually took notice of something.
"Oh, you look very upset about this, don't you?" The slim, black-haired woman cooed, though venom laced every concerned word. "I've been thinking…" Nami froze. Whenever Alvida thought, bad things came soon after. "…and I've realized that you don't deserve to work that hard, just because we want you to come with us." Alvida's smile was kind and innocent, ignorant of Nami's frozen look. However, one glance in the slim woman's eyes revealed all. The orange-haired girl, the one that worked hard to keep every inch of the whole damn estate clean, the one that dealt with the meals that were often left unfinished, the one that, for eight years, had never heard one thank-you, had never wanted to punch anybody as much as she wanted to punch Alvida now. Even Perona didn't make her this angry. Said girl was looking up at her mother in disbelief, ignorant of Nami's shaking fist.
"I couldn't wait to see her collapse from work, mom!" The gothic looking girl pouted, believing that her mother was, for once, doing an act of kindness. Bon Clay noticed the shaking fists though and connected something in her…his…the brain, before reaching the same conclusion as her…his…Alvida did only a day ago.
"Oh, don't worry Perona, I'm sure you'll have other chances…" Bon Clay's voice was also covered in fake sweetness as she…he…set a hand on Perona's shoulder and led her out carefully to the waiting carriage. Nami could hear her spoiled stepsister wail, 'But it's not fair!' Having nobody else to glare at, she glared at Alvida. She just smiled back at the teen before stepping out into the night and closing the door with a foreboding bang. It rung throughout the entire estate. The empty estate.
Nami suddenly felt weary, and she sunk to the floor. She realized she was crying. All that work for nothing. Her bubbly happiness had been stabbed in a dark alley and was currently dying in a dark gutter. The dress that she picked out was in the carriage, going along its merry way to the ball. Without her to change into it later.
She couldn't grab another one of Perona's dresses and try to get another carriage, because they all must be at the palace already or at least almost there.
Nami just couldn't see a way out of her situation. She couldn't see how she could get filthy rich, and she couldn't see how she could grow the largest tangerine grove in the world and she couldn't see how she could buy a funeral that Bellemere deserved. The air inside the estate seemed to be suffocating her as she sobbed harder, her tears coming freely now. As if to escape the stifling air, Nami dashed outside towards the pumpkin patch. The cold night air stung her and she was reminded of how thin her rags were, but she just stumbled forward blindly until she tripped. The teen laid there, the remains of building hope and a crushed dream. She was getting dirt everywhere, but she just ignored it. Nami's sobs were the only sound and her shaking was the only movement in the grove. Then…there was a bright light.
"I hope you know that you're possibly lying in mice droppings." A smooth voice rang from a bench that was never there before. It was the only sincere voice that Nami had heard in eight years.
"Gwah!?" Surprised to hear somebody here even when there shouldn't be guests, Nami somehow jumped to her feet and stared intently at the spot where the voice came from. There was only an empty bench. Wait a minute…there weren't any benches here…
"I didn't know it was that nasty…" A chuckle materialized right beside her ear. Nami spun around so fast that she almost fell over, and she finally saw the owner of the voice. It was a woman with long black hair in an elegant black dress that went down to her ankles. Even so, it was rather revealing. The mysterious woman noticed Nami eyeing her dress. "Oh? You don't like my dress?"
"N-no, it's just that…uh…" There were too many questions, plus Nami felt that a girl like her shouldn't be talking to a beautiful woman like this. She was even more conscious of her faults now. "…who are you?"
"Me? Oh, I'm just a fairy godmother. You may call me Robin." After introducing herself, she smiled and showed her black wand, which Nami was very certain wasn't there before.
"Fairy…godmother…?" Nami wondered if this woman in front of her was a bit crazy…though it did explain the bench. However, Nami always imagined fairy godmothers as jolly old ladies with very large wings in poofy dresses. Not dark young ladies in revealing dresses. "So…you grant wishes…?"
Robin laughed, but Nami felt far from being humiliated or anything like that. "Oh, I do something different. I give chances. I make dreams come true." She could see that the girl in front of her was confused by this remark. "I bet eventually, you'll understand."
"So…you can make me rich?"
"Oh, Nami, I can do much more than that." Now that was creepy. How did she know her name? "I can certainly make you rich. But unfortunately, I don't want to make money bags fall right into your lap." Nami's face fell. What kind of fairy godmother said that? "Oh, but like I said, I can make you rich. You wanted to go to the ball, right?" Nami nodded, but half-heartedly. There was an easier way to get rich, and trying to get the prince to marry her was the hard way. Really, if Robin could make her rich quick, why was she just making her go the long way around?
"Well…first we'll have to do something about your dress, if you don't mind me saying." With a wave of her black wand, Nami felt her clothing become heavier and something on her head. The dirt and grime that was all over her body was gone as well. When she looked down at herself, she gasped in amazement. She was wearing a beautiful white dress, almost like Robin's. It was strapless, held up by who-knows-what, and the dress split down her legs. It was the most beautiful (and expensive) thing she ever wore in her life.
"Wow…" Nami felt the top of her head. It was a small tiara. Her hair was also tied up. "…Wow…" She repeated, turning around and around just to look at her new dress swirl outwards. While it did, she noticed pretty glass slippers encompassed her small feet. "…Wow."
"I think that you also need transportation." Robin's smile was almost sly as she pointed her wand at a pumpkin. It broke free of its stems, and to Nami's amazement, appeared to walk over and implode into a glorious white carriage. Alvida's carriages, though also extravagant, paled in comparison. Nami found herself speechless, forgetting all about her previous thoughts about laziness. Robin really went all out with everything.
"And…" Nami slowly turned her head towards Robin, wondering what other wonderful things this godmother would do next. "We need horses and coachmen." Two pair of eyes moved towards the pumpkin patch, and for a moment, Nami thought that Robin was going to transform more pumpkins into people. Instead, she saw several mice fly upwards, looking rather bewildered. She counted four mice as they whizzed past her towards the carriage, but by that time, they were already changing. In a matter of seconds, four mice had become two humans and three horses.
Wait a minute…
"There's a horse with a really long neck and really long legs." Nami said slowly, staring at the mouse-turned-horse. It whinnied, and then blinked, wondering why it didn't squeak.
"Not all horses are perfect, you know." Robin's voice never showed a hint of annoyance. Only amusement.
"And…" Nami slowly looked at the next horse. "This one is pink. With polka dots. And wings."
"I guess I just felt creative."
"And…" Finally, the extra one. "…a reindeer?"
"Oh, I just decided to bring him with me. This is Chopper, my accomplice. Rather cute, isn't he?" Nami was about to ask why she called a reindeer an accomplice instead of a pet, but Chopper interrupted her.
"Hehe! Just because you call me cute doesn't make me like you!" Wait. A reindeer interrupted her.
"Yes. I guess you can say that Chopper is studying to become like me."
'A fairy godreindeer?' thought Nami, looking at the creature in doubt. That was when she realized he was wearing pants and a hat, as well as a jacket. "He's wearing clothes?" By now, the girl was beginning to get over the shock of…everything, really, and decided that nothing would be able to surprise her for the rest of her life.
"He's going into the ball with you, and I thought that he might need to dress up." Alright, now this was getting ridiculous. Nami was certain that this was a joke.
"Oh, I guess nobody would notice a reindeer in a ball," said Nami sarcastically. Neither Robin nor Chopper caught the sarcasm.
"Well, I can transform into other things…Robin isn't the only one who can do magic…Besides, you humans hardly notice anything at all."
"No time for demonstration. Well, now that you've gotten over your shock, I believe that it is time for you to go. The ball is already starting." Nami just nodded and quickly stepped up into the carriage. The confused mouse-turned-human blinked slowly before realizing that he was supposed to close the door. He did in a way that looked like he was amazed at his hands.
"Um…the mice will be alright, right?" Nami asked, uncertainly. She was especially concerned over the driver, who was holding the reins, but seemed more focused on his feet.
"Oh, I'm sure they'll be okay. Once they turn back, the mice will just be mice. Oh, and before I forget…" The carriage had already begun to leave, and the wheels moved forward to the palace. All the former mice seemed to be getting quiet instructions from Chopper, who was in the lead. "Your chance will disappear by the last bell's toll of midnight, so be sure to finish everything before then, hm?" Though her figure was being left behind and was fading, Robin's voice was as clear as if she was sitting right next to Nami. However, Nami didn't notice that because she was too busy thinking, What a rip-off!
Alvida's estate was a long way away from the palace, but Nami's carriage entered the gates only a few minutes later.
Usopp the knight looked at the ball going on. His idea was great. There were all those girls to hit on now, and though all of them were going after the prince, it didn't stop any of the knights from going after a few. It didn't stop the duke either.
But he had his job to do, which was to announce everybody who came in and to close the doors when nobody else was coming. Since he wanted to have some fun with his fellow knights, he started to close the door when someone shouted, 'Don't you dare!' Another woman pushed her way past him, almost breaking his nose, and ran down the stairs to join the huge mass of women. Usopp stared at the teen and her…her…reindeer? No. It was obviously an escort, his mind told him. It kept telling him that, even when he saw Chopper stand up on two legs, now smaller and cuter.
"W-wait! How am I supposed to announce…" Too late. The girl had disappeared in the mob. Oh well. Usopp closed the doors and he strolled down the marble stairs to join his friends.
The palace was in its best. There must have been at least ten chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the red carpeting matched all the other red decorations, and interestingly enough, Zoro's clothes.
Earlier, when Zoro had first made his entrance, he was swarmed by women confessing their love to him and that they'll be loyal forever and ever and that he shouldn't choose the girl that was saying the exact same thing. He was also a bit freaked out that ten-year-olds were clinging onto him, saying words and describing scenes they shouldn't know. There was a…woman. He was reluctant to call…her…that because he – she – was…well…yeah. It looked like a freakin' guy and it creeped out Zoro. There was also that thirty-something blue-haired, pointy-nosed woman that grasped his arm and didn't let go, shouting out things she thought would seduce him. Zoro was very creeped out. Finally, he managed to get them all off him and successfully glared at them. The women knew when to back off. Even so, many of them approached him, looking lustful and creepy, before running away. At least he caught the duke's look in time. It was surprised and angry, and maybe a little jealous. Priceless.
Now another girl approached him. Prince Zoro sighed and just looked up into her eyes. They were the same as everybody else's; they didn't come here just because of love. Her eyes showed him her greed and lust for fame, and how she wanted to show him off as if he were a trophy. How could Zoro know this just by looking into her eyes? Nobody will ever know.
Before the girl could speak, Zoro grunted, "Piss off." The girl didn't seem all that angry and obeyed. When she moved, Zoro noticed the pointy-nose woman running towards him with…flowers. They looked like roses from his rose garden.
"Zoooro-kuuuun!" The woman squealed. "It's me, Porcheee! I got some flowers!" Zoro ran like hell (though it was hard to do so in a crowded room full of girls, he managed). He didn't know what Porche wanted out of him, and he wasn't about to find out.
Duke Sanji was leaning against a wall, having a smoke. It wasn't exactly the ideal image of a royal man, but he really wanted a smoke. Right now, he didn't care if it was driving the women farther away from him, since they all just came for Zoro anyways. So he almost jumped when a beautiful teen grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around to face her.
Ignoring all the cigarette smoke, the orange-haired girl demanded, "Are you the prince?" Sanji was too surprised to answer, plus, he was already imagining…scenes…involving this girl and him. Damn that prince…he even attracted this girl away from him. "Are you the prince?" The duke answered this time, shaking his head slowly. The girl just gave an exasperated sigh and ran into the crowd. Sanji heard a 'wait for me!' and looked down. There was a small boy running after her. The boy seemed to be a bit fuzzy…and then he thought he saw antlers…and then he was gone.
"Why don't the others notice that you're a reindeer?" hissed Nami as she quickly scanned the room for any other man that was not wearing a suit of armor. The walking reindeer behind her was panting.
"I…I told you…" He huffed, wishing that Nami would slow down. "You humans don't…notice anything…can we please rest for a minute?" Nami stopped, but not because of Chopper. She thought she noticed someone at the table of refreshments, but it was only some guy in half a suit of armor and a straw hat eating a lot of meat.
"Yes, but what do you mean by that?" Nami was aggravated. It was too damn hard to find the prince.
"I mean…you humans are narrow-minded. Your brain blocks out what you don't believe, or what's unnatural to you, and so you don't see them. Like me, I'm a reindeer walking on two legs, and that's not normal, so the brain blocks me out or maybe replaces me with something else. I bet most people here see me as a little boy."
"But I can see you." Nami looked around quickly, but only saw knights hitting on some of the guests.
"Look, I'm only repeating what Robin told me. I'm not exactly sure myself, okay?"
"I think I found him!" Nami took off again, and Chopper was left all alone. It was a few seconds before this fact dawned on him.
"…Nami? Nami? Where are you?" Chopper's eyes began to tear. Everybody was too unfamiliar! Oh how he wanted to see Robin's friendly face…Nami disappeared quickly in the mob…he'll never be able to find her! And after Robin told him to keep an eye on her…
Usopp found a boy who looked like he was lost. In fact, didn't he see him before? With that orange-haired person that came in? Well anyways, as a knight, he felt that he should help this kid. "Hey, you lost?" He asked, walking up to the small child. The boy looked up at him, and after a pause, nodded. "Alright, what's your name?"
There was a small pause before the boy replied, "Chopper." Usopp tried to make his smile as friendly as possible. "Okay, Chopper. I'm one of the knights here, Usopp. Just come with me, and we'll see if we can find somebody you know…" Usopp walked towards the buffet table, where Franky and Captain Luffy were. Duke Sanji was hanging around as well, watching Luffy devour his food. "Oi! Guys! I got a lost kid here! Chopper, that big guy over there's another knight, Franky, and this guy with the hat is our captain, Luffy, and the blond in the fancy wear is Duke Sanji."
Sanji and Franky saw what Usopp saw. A brown-haired kid that looked scared. However, when Luffy looked up from eating meat…
"Wow! Usopp! You found a tanuki!" Usopp blinked. Luffy was spouting nonsense now. He knew his captain was an idiot, (it was confirmed when Luffy once talked to him about pixies living in the rose garden) but he wasn't that much of an idiot to mistake a kid for a raccoon-dog. Even so, Luffy immediately started squeezing Chopper's cheek. "Haha! He's cute!"
What befuddled Usopp even more was that Chopper had responded, "I'm not a tanuki, I'm a reindeer!" He looked up at Sanji and Franky and noticed they were just as confused as he was. They didn't know it, but Chopper was confused as well. While he struggled in Luffy's grasp, he wondered how this stupid-looking human could see what he really was. Everybody else caved into their narrow minds and saw him as a human boy, but this person…and all of a sudden, he remembered a conversation he and Robin had in his first year of apprenticeship. Wheee! Flashback!
"Hm?" The tall woman smiled at him as she looked up from her book.
"I was just wondering…why can't humans see me as who I am?" Chopper and Robin had just finished with a client. Chopper was unsure how Robin had done it, but she had made another dream come true.
"It's because common sense says there is no such thing as a walking talking reindeer."
"But your client could see me."
"And my client only saw you after she saw me perform my magic. You see, Chopper, usually humans have minds that refuses to see what is really there. They always see things as what they think it should be. And since you are unnatural to them, you are replaced in their minds as either not being there, or as a small human child." Robin had closed her book and set it on a side table that hadn't been there a second ago. "As a fairy godmother, I force myself into human's minds, so they can see me. And after they see me do magic, they open up their minds a little, and that's when they see you." Chopper was silent as he mused over this.
"…You said usually. Are there people who can see everything as it is?" Robin's smile grew a little, as if she was happy that Chopper noticed that detail.
"…Why are you so interested in this topic, Chopper?"
"I…I just don't like being thought of something I'm not…I think. Whenever somebody looks at me, I either don't exist to them, or I'm not what I am at all. None of the humans can see me until they see you. Why do you help humans when they are so narrow-minded?"
"Because some humans deserve the help, Chopper. And not all humans are narrow-minded." Chopper stared up at Robin in almost disbelief. "Really?" Robin laughed.
"That's right. Not one human is the same as the other. Some humans have their minds naturally more open than others. Some humans have their minds wide open to everything in this world."
"An open-minded human…I'd like to meet one." Robin chuckled again, as if Chopper's surprise was amusing.
"Even I haven't met a naturally open-minded human. They are very rare. If you find one, I suggest that you grab them and never let go.
"Because you may not find another one in your lifetime."
This night was certainly getting stranger.
"Chopper, right?" Usopp asked, staring. "Why are you hugging Captain Luffy?"
"'m grabbing 'im and never lettin' go…" Chopper sniffed. He hadn't realized he started crying. Now Chopper felt like an idiot. Here he found a rare human, one that could see everything as it was, and he was probably scaring him off or something by crying on him.
Luffy set a gentle hand on his head before bellowing, "Special Straw-hat squadron!" Usopp and Franky stood to attention while Sanji just leaned back and waited patiently while Luffy scratched his cheek and decided that it was too uncomfortable to wear a breastplate. After he took that off and adjusted his straw hat, Luffy coughed. "We have a mission! Hang on a second!" Luffy looked down and grinned. "You're looking for someone, right?"
Chopper hesitated. "…Sort of…"
"Your mom? Your dad?" Sanji asked, stubbing out his cigarette and throwing it in a random direction. "A sister perhaps?" He added, remembering the orange-haired woman he was following who approached him earlier.
"What? Oh, I don't have any of those." Chopper waved a hoof dismissively and was unaware how his nonchalant tone affected his new friends.
Franky was the first to react. "Ohmigod an orphan!" He sobbed, dramatic tears flying off his face. Needless to say, Chopper was confused. When Franky scooped him up in a spine-crushing hug, he made an 'uwaaagh' sound, which Franky took to be some sort of stifled angst making itself known, and just hugged even tighter.
"Hey, Captain? Y'think we should pry Franky off o' him?" Usopp whispered to Luffy. "If we let him keep hugging…" Sanji, who was listening in, said very loudly, "Hey, Franky, are you crying?"
"Uwahhh? Noo! Baka! I'm not crying!" Franky immediately dropped Chopper, who was slightly foaming at the mouth, and tried to quickly wipe his tears away.
"Right then. Just one question. Who was that lovely lady you were following before?" There was no answer for a few seconds, and Sanji had to shake Chopper a bit before he got a response.
"You mean Nami?" ('Nami! I will treasure that beautiful name forever!') "Um…she's sorta…" Chopper was sure Robin would disapprove of him mentioning secret fairy godmothering business and just said the first excuse that came to mind. "I just wanted to follow her…?"
"Ah, I see." Luffy nodded sagely. "The tanuki's a pervert tanuki. Like the duke."
"Oi, you shitty captain! I'm right here you know!"
"Yeah, I know. But it's true you know. You are a pervert."
"No I'm not! I admire a woman's beauty from afar"
"Eh. Same difference," Luffy replied, picking his nose casually. As the two started to bicker, Usopp sat down besides the small kid.
"Don't worry, they aren't always like this. 'S just that sometimes the captain's an idiot and says things that he's not supposed to." Then all of a sudden, a wide, knowing grin spread across Usopp's face and he nudged the kid beside him conspiratorially. "Soooo…" He began, ignoring the arguing and Franky's 'I'm not crying!' "…What is this girl like, eh?"
"Well…I've only been following her for a short while, but I think she's temperamental. And she gets shocked easily."
"Aaah…damn. Too many of those women around nowadays." Usopp sighed, then eyed Chopper suspiciously while Sanji kicked Luffy behind him. Chopper watched the scene behind the long-nosed soldier with fascination. "Do you still want to follow her?"
"Hm? Oh…I think I have to."
"Well, then do I have good news!" Usopp decided, what the hay. As long as a kid was here with him, he might as well have some fun and lift some spirits. "You've found the right knight, kid. Everybody here knows that when you need something found, all you gotta do is look for Bloodhound Usopp!"
"Eeeh?! But…" Chopper frowned in concentration for a moment. "…Your name's Usopp! You can really find anything and anybody!?"
"Yup! With only my nose." At this, Usopp tapped his nose knowingly.
"Ah. That explains it then…"
"I mean…if your nose is like that, then I guess you could sniff out a lot of stuff…"
"Saaanjiii! You didn't have to kick me that haaaard!"
"That wasn't even a half-assed kick! Stop pretending!"
"Oi! Shut up!" Franky appeared to have recovered from his bout of crying and used his robust voice to silence all conversation. He turned to Chopper and said, "You're looking for your girl, right?"
"Uh…it's not like…"
"That's just super! I'm lookin' for a girl myself!" Feeling that he could relate, Franky swung his large arm around the small reindeer's shoulders. "Don't worry, kid. We'll find this girl of yours. Orange hair, right?" Chopper nodded mutely and was surprised to feel that he didn't want to find Nami right away. These people…already, he was at ease with them. He didn't want to leave them until…until when?
"Great. Just great." Nami sat against a wall, resting. She hadn't been able to find the prince yet (by the way, Zoro was still running like hell – better safe than sorry). Now, she was really beginning to give up hope. If that Robin really was her fairy godmother, then couldn't she pop out and help her or something? "Hm? Hey look here, Moz! This girl almost looks like a princess!"
"Hang on! Man it's so crowded here…Ah! You're right, Kiwi!" Nami looked up at the two unfamiliar voices to see two very big squares. After lowering her line of sight, she saw that the black squares were attached to people. Very scantily clad twins, to be exact.
"Um…" Nami said uncertainly to the squares. "…Hi."
"Hey there, princess!" One of the square-girls waved happily. "I'm Moz, and this here is Kiwi. What're you doing, sitting around here? This is supposed to be a party, isn't it?"
"…I tried to find the prince, but I couldn't find him at all."
"Ooooh, you're one of those women trying to marry him, right?"
"What? You two aren't?" At this, Moz and Kiwi started laughing uproariously.
"Hey, girl, we're too old for that guy! That's like…wrong!" Kiwi, or possibly Moz, giggled, wiping away a tear.
"Besides, he's not our type. He's too…too…" Moz, or possibly Kiwi, started waving her hand around, searching for a word.
Finally, both of them finished, "Too something."
'What the…' Nami twitched, staring at the two women that were coincidentally attached to squares. 'They don't even know why they dislike him…'
"Sooooo…you're looking for Mr. Princey, right?" Moz/Kiwi bent over, pushing her face, hair, and cleavage right into Nami's face. She tried not to look annoyed, but it was hard with half-revealed boobs in your face.
"Yes. Do you know where he is?" To Nami's relief, the square stood up straight again.
"Hmmm…let's see…" The two said simultaneously, tapping a finger against their cheeks in sync. "Ah, that's right! I think we saw him run under a table. He was obviously hiding from that old lady that was chasing him." Overjoyed with this new information, Nami swept the two in a big, grateful hug. "Thanks!" Suddenly filled with new energy, the girl ran off in search of a table. The two square women watched her bump into another girl with amusement.
"I like her, don't you?" One said. (Either Kiwi or Moz)
"Hm…she seems okay." The other replied. (Either Moz or Kiwi)
"Wait. How exactly are we going to find her?" Sanji asked, looking around at the crowded room. "I mean…there must be hundreds of girls here. Even if orange is an unusual hair color, it's like finding a needle in a haystack."
"That's easy, we'll just knock the haystack away, and we'll find the needle!" Luffy had finally decided that the last part of his armor, the arms, were pointless to keep on, and they clattered as they hit the floor next to his already discarded helmet. Usopp had followed his captain's lead and started taking off his own armor as well. (Franky never wore any to begin with)
"But can't we just use Bloodhound Usopp's nose?" Three pair of eyes stared at Chopper, before two immediately glared at Usopp. The curly-haired teen was slightly embarrassed, but strangely happy that someone took him seriously.
Honestly, though Usopp fancied himself a strong knight, he knew that he always was at the back of the fight, or in the castle instead of defending it with his fellow knights outside. Plus, with his stories that he made up in an attempt to make himself greater than he was, and the fact that he had a habit of calling himself captain when everybody knew the captain was Luffy (he did it less nowadays, however) lowered all respect for him. Everybody in the Special Strawhat Squadron were the only people that didn't look down on him or dismiss him as a fool. It was because they were all fools as well, he guessed…
Anyways, even if this little kid was probably so innocent that he'd believe anything, his full belief in him filled Usopp with…well…it made him happy. Too bad that he couldn't stay to just hang around and listen to his stories, or something like that. Usopp was just brimming with the tall tales of his own fantasies, and he loved telling them to people. Unfortunately, there hardly was anybody to tell them to. He felt stupid for telling them to almost everybody, especially when they told him to grow up.
"Chopper…that was a lie."
"Huh?! Usopp, that was a lie?!" Usopp gulped when he felt those huge, saucer-like eyes on him. Who knew a kid could have eyes as big as those?
"Naw, I'm sure Bloodhound Usopp's nose is just stuffy today." Everybody stared at Luffy, who just beamed back at them all. Usopp frowned. It was always hard to tell if Luffy believed his stories or not. Sometimes he seemed to believe them one hundred percent, but other times, he just seemed to pretend just so he wouldn't hurt his feelings. Right now, Usopp wasn't sure whether Luffy sincerely believed that Usopp had a nose like a Bloodhound or he was just covering for him.
"Oh, that explains it then." Chopper nodded, closing his big eyes in acceptance.
"Well, since we sure as hell can't find her…" Sanji slowly said, fingering the few hairs on his chin. "…Chopper, do you think we can find her after the ball?"
"Oh, I know she has to leave by midnight."
"Huh? Why?" inquired Franky.
"Shut up, Franky. If a beautiful lady wants to leave before the ball is over, then she can leave. You shouldn't question her!" Luckily for Chopper, Sanji was an idiot. "Anyways, why don't we enjoy ourselves until midnight, then? We can drink and have a little fun…the rose garden is beautiful, this time of night."
"…You just want to see if there are any girls there…"
"Hey, there might be."
"Eh. Good enough for me. But Chopper here can't drink, can he?"
"Hey! I'm sure I can drink whatever you can!"
"Ah…well, the thing is, Chopper…this drink isn't for little kids…" Usopp scratched the side of his nose. "It's alcoholic, see? Kids aren't supposed to drink it."
"I'm not as young as I look!" Chopper huffed. It was true, actually. Chopper, in human years, would probably be around sixteen or fifteen – almost the age of Luffy and Usopp themselves. "Besides, you're too young to drink too!" Franky started laughing for no apparent reason.
"If he's mature enough to know the age restriction, then he can drink one or two, can't he?" Franky chuckled at a joke that was only known to him. "C'mon, this is a party! Let's loosen up a bit, ne? Restrictions are for everyday life and stuffy, boring people." The other guys seemed to think, why not, and grabbed a lot of bottles of sake off the table before Sanji led everybody to the rose garden where they would all party and drink and hit on girls until midnight.
Nami was crawling under the tables, wondering if the two square-heads were really telling the truth. She hadn't thought that there would actually be any women here that weren't interested in marrying the prince. What was their type anyways? Before Nami could think up some very interesting answers, she saw a figure in the corner of the last table and a gasp got caught in her throat.
Prince Zoro had jumped when he noticed that there was someone approaching him, but relaxed when he saw that it wasn't the blue-haired weirdo. "Hey," he said casually, raising a hand. He quickly put it back down when it hit the top of the table. And just because he was wondering, he looked into this new woman's eyes, and saw more greed. But there was something else as well…intrigued, Zoro decided to be at least a little friendlier with this one. "Are you hiding from someone as well? Or were you looking for me?"
"Um…" Nami was sort of at a loss for words. She almost understood why Kiwi and Moz didn't exactly like the prince. He was sort of mean-looking. "…I was looking for you, really."
"Ah. So you're one of the girls who want to marry me." Nami shivered. When he said it like that, it seemed so…wrong.
Well, there was no point in lying. "Actually…yeah…" The prince's look didn't seem happy or sad or…anything. He just stared. Nami was beginning to get second thoughts…but she had to stay strong! She had to be willing to do anything as long as there was a chance that her dreams could come true. She had to be quick though…she already wasted precious time looking for him. She only had 'til midnight to become the apple of his eye. "You know, I think the girl you're hiding from is gone now." She told him, remembering what Kiwi or Moz told her. "I don't think you'd want to stay under this table all night…"
"It's better than being approached by women every few seconds. At least now I won't be bothered." That comment made Nami almost feel guilty.
"Well, there must be other hiding places…this one is sort of…" Nami trailed off.
"Yeah, I guess." Zoro sighed, then eyed the girl sitting next to him, who apparently did not care if her white dress got dirty or something. (At every party or ball, no matter where it is held, there will always be food residue underneath the tables.) "…What's your name?"
"…Zoro. Though you probably already knew that." There was a pause as the two sat together under the table, unable to think of anything to say. They both could hear chattering, and one lady carelessly spilled a drink near them on the other side of the expensive tablecloth.
"…Is that your natural hair color?" Nami blinked, shocked at what came out of her mouth. Of all the…why'd she say that?!
"It is." Zoro replied grimly, watching shadows of legs rush quickly by. Nami couldn't tell if he was amused or angry. However, he did appear to have something on his mind. Finally, he opened his mouth to apparently speak his mind, and Nami held her breath, wondering what he was thinking…
"I really want some sake." Nami blinked. "Hm…I'd really like to go to sleep around now too."
'Eh?!'"Um…I can get you some, maybe…"
"Really? Thanks." Nami nodded mutely before crawling out, grabbing a bottle of sake, and crawling back under, ignoring stares. Zoro immediately took the bottle as soon as he saw it and gulped it down in a very un-prince-like manner. Nami always expected princes to act more…well…prince-like, really. There was no way to describe it…
"I'm going to sleep now. I hope you don't mind." He saw the orange-haired girl give a preoccupied nod, and started to lie back. When Nami's brain processed what he actually said, she whipped her head around at him very quickly in disbelief. Sleep!? During something that was supposed to decide who his bride was!? Well, she didn't want to wake him up…he might not like it and she would immediately get on the prince's bad side and then how was she supposed to seduce him?
In fact, how was she supposed to seduce him now? She seemed to have a plan at the beginning but now…it sorta seemed that she was doing a whole lot of nothing. The minutes ticked by and Nami fretted. What was the time? How long was it until midnight? Did Zoro even like her at all? The girl slowly took off her tiara and fingered it as she sat in silence, besides Zoro's occasional snoring. She was so preoccupied with her worries that she didn't notice a figure walk up to the table until it held up the tablecloth and poked its head in.
"Hey," it said. Nami immediately jumped and dropped her tiara. Several of the guests noticed the table rattle. "Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to surprise you like that! Um…are you okay? You looked like you hit your head pretty hard…" Nami held her head in pain, but still looked up to see who had surprised her like that. It was a stunning blue-haired teen. Nami couldn't see much of what she was wearing, but she looked like a real princess…what a princess was supposed to look like, anyways. This new girl looked from one side to the other once it appeared that Nami was alright, and spotted Zoro. "There he is…" With a sigh, the girl disappeared from view momentarily.
Nami was surprised to see a heel suddenly lash out between the snoozing Zoro's legs. Zoro wasn't snoozing anymore. He shot straight up with a pained 'huuurrgh!' sound and made the table shake once again. (Some guests were almost certain the table was haunted and stayed as far away from it as possible now.) Nami thought she caught a quick 'whatthehell…!' from him as he rubbed his head and the place where the girl had kicked.
"Get out of there, you idiot. You have to dance soon."
Zoro only replied, "Nojiko you bitch!" to which the girl called Nojiko responded by kicking again. This time, Zoro was fast enough to dodge it by rolling over to, and onto, Nami. The orange-haired girl let out a pained and shocked squeak, which made Zoro jump up on his feet. The table shook once again, and the prince rocketed back down to Nami.
"Sorry." Zoro grunted, rolling off of the girl.
"Apologize later. You still have to dance soon, Zoro."
"Nobody said anything about dancing!" Nami couldn't exactly tell but…it seemed that the scary-looking prince was actually whining. Zoro glared at her. "What are you laughing about?"
"N-nothing…" Nami tried to stifle her giggle, but failed.
"Hah, can't believe you'd actually get a girl. Interesting place to make out, huh? There's always a closet, you know." Nami's giggle turned into a choke.
"Wh-what!?" Both the prince and the hopefully would-be princess exclaimed at the same time, blushing furiously. "The hell! What did you think we were doing down here?!"
"I-I didn't do anything! I only found him down here and gave him sake!"
"Yeah, yeah. Just get out of there now, Zoro. You have to dance with the girl you like the most, and that girl will be your bride or something. Hurry up! The orchestra's getting ready to play a song!" As soon as Nami heard that, she was suddenly nervous. Now was the time that the prince had to choose his bride…
"What?! That's the first I heard of that!"
"Too bad. Choose your girl and go, Prince Marimo." Yes, Nojiko had heard Duke Sanji's affectionate nickname for the green-haired prince, and it had caught on.
"I don't like any of these women!" Nami's heart just plummeted like a stone that was just tossed off the end of the earth. She was too late. If only she found the prince sooner, maybe then she would have gotten him to love her…but now…
"Then you can always dance with me."
"Hell no! Not after that!"
"Then pick someone! I don't care who!" Zoro was silent as he realized that there was no way out of this. Finally, he slowly turned to the girl who had found him under the table.
"…Do you know how to dance?" Now Nami's heart had stopped, and time took itself going through the next few seconds. Zoro's look was serious…he definitely wasn't joking. He was dead serious.
"…Eh?!" Now Zoro looked annoyed.
"Look, it's a simple question. Do you know how to dance or not?"
"Good." Satisfied by this simple answer, Zoro grabbed her wrist and stood up, apparently forgetting that he was sitting under a table. A string of curses escaped the table before it gave birth to Zoro and Nami. Nojiko seemed to be satisfied as well.
"You've found a nice looking girl. Didn't know you had it in you."
"I'm not gonna marry her! I'm just going to dance with her so you won't kick me in the fucking crotch again!" Even though Nami heard that, she was too happy that Zoro picked her. She didn't know that he picked her just because she was the closest.
"Alright, go in the middle. Go! Now!" Nojiko made a 'shoo' movement with her hands, and not wanting to anger her enough to kick him again, Zoro tightened his grip around Nami's wrist and strode quickly towards the dance floor. Nami winced at the pressure, but she didn't pull away. This was the guy she was supposed to marry so she could fulfill her dream. She was so close…she wasn't about to ruin it, even if this guy was a bit scary and she didn't exactly like him all that much. Maybe as a friend…
"Just so you know…" He started, just when a spotlight shone on the couple. All the women glared daggers at the lucky bitch with the prince, but backed away respectfully. The orchestra started playing, their exquisite music coming from somewhere unseen. Maybe behind a curtain. "I don't know how to dance." And then Nami found herself leading this big bulk of a man who occasionally made them trip or trod on her glass shoes so hard that she thought they would break. Finally, it was over. The girls clapped just to be polite, and started for more food, or maybe to go home, since the prince had chosen somebody and it was pointless to stay.
"Excuse me." A hand caught Merry the waiter by the shoulder, and he swerved around with elegance and a smile, though that faded in a moment.
"Um…yes…?" He asked, looking around him before accepting that the voice was coming from in front of him. Of course he was talking to somebody…he had to be. Voices just didn't come out of nowhere. But…still…sometimes he thought there was a person there, right in front of him, clear as day…but sometimes it was a little fuzzy…and there was nobody there at all. Merry was confused.
"Do you have any coffee?"
"Pity. Anyways, what's going on right now?" Merry turned over towards the center of the ballroom, relieved to take his eyes off the area in front of him.
"Oh, the prince just finished dancing with the girl he chose. A quite beautiful girl, I might add. Her orange hair is quite a nice color, if I may say…"
"Thank you." Merry blinked, bowed, and walked away very quickly.
Robin sipped out of a cup that hadn't existed a few seconds ago. Everything was going according to plan.
"Thanks a lot," complained Nami, collapsing on a nearby seat and taking off one her shoes to rub her abused foot. "What kind of prince doesn't know how to dance?"
"I was too lazy to learn," replied Zoro, sitting down right next to her.
"You're a dumbass." Zoro turned towards his apparent bride-to-be with an amused smirk.
"You're not like the other girls, huh…"
"What? Should I be?"
"No, no…I like you better. At least you don't treat me like a prince now."
"But you are a prince." Nami pointed out blatantly, staring at Zoro confusedly.
"Yes…" The green-haired prince agreed, though a bit hesitantly. "Maybe…but…"
"So, I'll have to marry you now, right?" Nami interrupted. Zoro frowned at this, but decided to overlook it just this once. Instead, he focused on how Nami sounded like she sort of didn't like the idea but she sort of did…weird.
"Yeah, I guess." Zoro snorted in an un-prince-like way. "This place will go kingless if we don't. I don't understand why we have to have a queen anyways…I can just do fine by myself."
"It's because you're gonna need an heir soon so you need to have se-"
"I know why." Unable to think of another thing to talk about, Nami and Zoro sat in awkward silence, and just for the sake of something to do, Nami took off her other shoe and started rubbing her other foot.
Finally, Nami decided to confess something. "Listen…Prince Zoro…" She had his full attention…oooh, when he stared at her like that, it made her nervous. "Honestly, I don't feel all that comfortable marrying you."
"Well…because…um…I want to marry you and all, but…I just can't wrap my mind around the image of me and you…together…and…"
"Hey, I know what you mean." And before Zoro could explain in deeper detail, the clock tower started ringing.
Nami's stomach twisted. "Th-that bell is for…eleven…right?"
"Hm? No. The clock tower only rings for midnight." Her stomach was in knots now. She had gotten so close…and now, it was midnight! Zoro said he liked her, but what would he think after all her clothes changed back and the years of sweat and grime and endless toil all came rushing back to her? It was all too soon!
Zoro just watched the girl as the first ring of the bell ended. She looked sick, plus she seemed to have something on her mind. "Oi…are you alright?" His voice seemed to snap her out of whatever she was in, and she jumped up, breathlessly saying, 'I'vegottago' before running towards a random direction. "Hey! Wait! You forgot…" But she was already gone, running towards the nearest door. "…your shoes." Zoro finished lamely, looking down at the gleaming pair. She bumped into a girl, and whizzed past Kiwi and Moz, who immediately turned around, wondering if that was who they thought it was.
Well, she appeared to be confused. She was running to the rose garden. He might be able to catch up with her…
…if he didn't get lost in it again…
The group was celebrating hard, since none of the girls seemed to have been interested in roses. Franky had gotten drunk very quickly, and Usopp as well, though Sanji had only sipped his liquor. Luffy didn't drink at all, saying he'd rather eat meat. Chopper seemed to have as much tolerance for alcohol as Franky and was soon shouting and dancing.
Franky and Usopp, through the drunken and unfocused haze, wondered why Chopper all of a sudden had fur and antlers. A drunken man's mind is pretty open, after all.
After several hours of excessive drinking and basically doing what drunken men did, the loud rings of the clock tower finally reached Chopper's ears. A thought trudged up towards his brain, knocking on his head and reminding him of something…
He had to do something…
There was something important…
"Oh shit!" He shouted, remembering the important thing he was supposed to do now. However, because he was still drunk, it came out like, "Oooh…s-shhh…!" Sanji was about to ask the reason of his (half) cursing, when he remembered.
"Oh, right. We were supposed to catch your girl now…hey wait! Don't try to go alone!" The duke shouted as the small reindeer tottered over to the general area of his original destination. He fell into a rose bush. Sanji quickly helped him out, glad that the gardeners had cut off the thorns. "Okay, just wait! Don't worry, you'll catch her," Sanji tried to reassure the drunken boy as the second bell sounded. "Here we'll…" He paused, looking at the drunken Franky, who was currently calling Luffy, 'Loony' and Usopp, 'Claire' and talking to a bush. He changed his sights to a drunken Usopp, who was fixated on telling everybody about his "great and daring deeds in the battle of…of…-hiccup- butternauts and clovers". Finally, he set his eyes on Luffy, who was only eating meat and laughing at the performance the two drunks were making.
"Here, I'll help you." He corrected himself, just as the third bell rang. Chopper started struggling feebly, mumbling, "I have to help her. I'm supposed to help her…Robin told me to…" It was amazing, really, how focused Chopper seemed, even when drunk.
"Don't worry. C'mon, I'll carry you." Duke Sanji didn't think – just acted. He didn't think that Chopper would react badly to the sudden movement of lifting because of how much liquor he drank.
Sanji ignored the fact that his shoes really needed to be washed, and just carried the sick Chopper and ran as fast as he could towards the palace. He wondered why they hung around so far away as the sixth bell tolled.
Where was she?! This wasn't the right door! She had to go back…but if she went back, she'd meet back up with Prince Zoro, and then…
The seventh bell rang. It sounded mournful, and reminded Nami of death.
Her instincts told her to run. Just keep running.
Her dignity told her not to cry. She wasn't going to cry! Just because nothing worked out like the way it was supposed to, and she knew that Zoro wasn't comfortable marrying her, and on top of that, they would probably never meet again…this was all the stupid fairy godmother's fault! Stupid stupid stupid…she was the one who sent her to this stupid ball! That smile…Nami closed her eyes and just kept rushing forward madly…she knew that Nami would fail!
…but still…Nami knew it wasn't Robin's fault at all. As the eighth bell rang, the other part of her brain – the moral part – told her that it served her right. She was greedy. She only wanted to marry the prince for her own needs. Did she ever stop and think about the prince? What did Zoro want?
Nami was tired, and her side hurt, but she just kept running faster, as if trying to escape her guilt. She thought she deserved it, after being treated so harshly for eight years. But maybe Robin wanted to teach her a lesson – or maybe it was a test. Well…then that must have meant that she had failed…failed to think of anybody but herself and her own wants. It was only now that Zoro's wants ever crossed her mind. And it was too late.
That was the tenth bell.
Nami tripped and realized she forgot her shoes. But now…it didn't matter anymore. They would all disappear, wouldn't they? She also left the tiara under the table…but it didn't matter…
She realized as she forced herself up again that she must have been a sight. Her stunning white dress was now covered in dust and was torn in some places. Her hair was disheveled and stuck out in odd directions. The orange-haired girl almost laughed bitterly…but she just continued running.
Sanji lumbered around the rose garden unsteadily. Chopper had gotten sick several times now, right on Sanji, but it seemed like he was done. Now, he just slumped over his shoulder, unconscious. The duke was almost to the castle now, and he wondered what comment the shitty prince would make with the stench of bile now about him.
And that was when a beautiful orange-haired woman crashed into him.
Sanji immediately lost his balance and fell on his posterior, but managed to prevent Chopper from bouncing away on the ground by holding on to him even tighter. This prompted him to be sick again. The duke paid no heed to his alcohol-induced barfing, because all his attention was on this girl. She was definitely gorgeous. And, what luck! She was the one Chopper was looking for, wasn't she? Sanji did notice how she seemed shocked and scared and tortured by something on her mind, but he just figured that she was just surprised by the two bumping into each other so suddenly. First things first though…Chopper…
"Hey, um…I think this guy," Here, Sanji indicated the groaning Chopper, and was about to finish his sentence when the pressure of the recent events took advantage of Nami's shock and overruled her dignity. Nami started crying.
At first, Sanji just sat there on the ground, gaping. Then his reflexes took over. There was a crying girl! The duke set down the small boy gently, swept this woman into his own embrace, and let her cry on him in silence, all in one fluid movement.
The eleventh bell rang.
Because he felt that he should, Duke Sanji started patting her back soothingly. Eventually, the crying turned into sobs, the sobs into hiccups.
And they were both alone in the rose garden.
Now in any other situation, Sanji would have melted. There was a woman in his arms! A very beautiful woman! But this was a serious situation. This woman needed comfort, not a pile of goo at her feet.
And that's when Sanji noticed that this woman did not have any shoes.
And that's when the twelfth and final bell tolled.
"Nami!" Chopper, looking quite sober all of a sudden, jumped up. "Get on! Quickly!" Nami jumped in this man's arms. It was comforting, and she did want to stay in these strong and supportive arms forever…but the bell tolled! She had to leave!
Sanji sat there, unable to do anything as the radiant girl ran over to Chopper.
Wait. Girls didn't shine that much, no matter how beautiful they were…
…and Nami changed back into Cinderami. She was already on Chopper, who had already changed back into full reindeer form, and they galloped away and over a rose bush as the sparkles faded. As they arched over the hedge, she looked back to the soothing arms…
Sanji's cigarette fell to the ground, and he dreamily snuffed it out. Did all that really happen? He saw that woman change…into something, he couldn't tell. But as soon as she started sparkling, Chopper turned into a reindeer. And then they rushed out so fast, he couldn't tell what happened to the woman.
Finally, when Sanji could feel his legs again, he stood up and winced when he heard a squishing noise from his shoes. His suit was a mess. There was now dirt and barf and tears on it…but that didn't seem to matter anymore.
"Hm…where am I now…holy crap!" Sanji turned to the new voice absentmindedly. "You look like shit," said Zoro, eyeing the duke's clothes with a critical eye. "What the hell happened to you?"
"Nothin'." Zoro's eyebrows rose. No comeback? No snappy insults?
"…Alright. What's wrong? What happened?" Inquired Zoro, crossing his arms, holding the two glass slippers loosely in one hand.
"Nothing! Jeez, you sound like my mother!" Ah. That was better. Zoro uncrossed his arms and was about to drag him into another one of their regular fights, but remembered something in time.
"Oh, before I forget. Have you seen a girl around here? She forgot her shoes…" Zoro held up the glass shoes he was holding, and Sanji frowned, before his curly eyebrow shot straight up. Wait a minute…!
"She didn't have orange hair, did she…?" He asked weakly, remembering those dirty bare feet.
"Actually, yeah. Did you see her?"
"…Yeah…just a while ago…but…well, I have to tell you something…let's go back inside…" Zoro wrinkled his nose as Sanji set a hand on his shoulder.
"…Do I smell…?"
"It's not important right now."
"We have to go!" Bon Clay blinked. Perona was dragging both her/him and Alvida towards the carriage. Alvida looked a bit annoyed.
"What is it?"
"I saw Nami! Here! She's disobeying your orders, mom! We have to go back quickly to catch her! She bumped into me twice during the ball! I'm sure it's her!" Now Alvida was dragging the both of them, and they climbed into their carriage.
"Come on, come on! Why aren't we moving?!"
"There's a carriage in front of us," Bon Clay answered, looking out the window. "I think they're waiting for someone."
"Well, we're in a hurry!" Perona snarled, glaring daggers at the carriage in front of them. "We've got to go!" And then, all of a sudden, the carriage in front of them disappeared. Perona opened and closed her mouth. None of them could have seen the crushed pumpkin and the four mice now in front of them.
Alvida, recovering quite quickly, snapped at the driver, "What are you doing? Move!" He obliged, and the carriage slowly rolled out. Perona recovered next. "Faster! Faster!" She howled, shrieking in a panicked tone. "We have to get home before she does!"
And now it was a race between a carriage and a reindeer.
Perona slammed the doors open and strutted in, looking smug. "See? She's not here! I told you I sa…" Her sentence died in her throat as Nami slowly strode down the stairs, dusting as she went.
"Oh, welcome home." She smiled as sweetly as she dared while Perona pointed and stuttered.
"But…bu-but…I saw you! You were there! You bumped into me! Twice!"
"Hm? I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Perona-chan." Nami was still smiling, but her smile seemed more venomous now.
"Ah, on the contrary, I think you know exactly what I'm talking about!" Perona spat angrily, and made as if to hit her, but Alvida calmly set a hand on her shoulder.
"That's enough." She said. Her voice yielded no thoughts or emotions, but it was menacing nonetheless. "It's past midnight. We'll talk about this later." Perona glared at Nami, 'hmph'ed, and just stormed up to her room. Bon Clay followed suit. Which only left Alvida.
The thin woman stared at Nami coldly for what felt like an hour before walking to her own room. Even though she was out of sight, Nami didn't relax until she heard the door open and close. After that, she slumped a little, and Chopper came out of his hiding place.
"That was close..." He sighed, plopping down on the marble floor. "If I had been only a little slower…"
"…they would have come home to an empty house." Nami finished, before glaring at the small reindeer. "What are you still doing here?" She asked coldly.
"Eh?! Well…Robin told me to wait for her…so I'm waiting…"
"Hah. She probably won't come to pick you up, you know."
"Of course she will! Just because she hadn't yet…I'm sure she'll come and get me soon!" Even so, there was a little doubt in his voice. Nami felt guilty once again. She didn't mean to start giving him doubts. She was just in a bad mood.
"Chopper, I'm sorry. I'm just…frustrated. I'm sure she will come. Don't worry about it. In the meantime, go ahead and stay in my room. They'll ask questions if they see a little boy wandering around in here. I'll just finish cleaning up…"
"But you should go to sleep too, shouldn't you?"
"Don't worry about me. I've pulled all-nighters before." Before Chopper could say any more, Nami finished their conversation with a, "Good night, Chopper." Knowing that the topic was to be dropped, the reindeer slowly walked off while Nami got to work.
"Hey, Zoro! Now where's the lucky girl?" Nojiko craned her neck over Zoro's shoulder, but only saw Sanji. The princess frowned. Somehow, she doubted that Zoro would want to marry the duke. Especially when he was looking so…so… "Ew. What happened to you?"
"A lot of things." Nojiko decided that she didn't want to know what those things were, and turned her attention back to Zoro, who was frowning. Sanji had told him some interesting things on their long walk back to the palace, and he didn't quite understand some of them, but one thing was for sure. The kingdom was going to be kingless for a while. A pity really…that girl was the only decent one. Of course, he still didn't want to marry her, but since he had to marry someone, he would choose that girl.
"So where is she?"
"That girl! You know, the orange-haired one!" Sensing that Nojiko was in a kicking mood, Zoro raised his hands and backed away quickly.
"She ran off."
"What?! We have to find her!"
"Now, now, don't worry, my princess. I plan on sending some of the finest men here to search for her later."
"But we have to find her now! Why later!?" Nojiko roared, pacing back and forth.
"Because they're drunk right now. Well, actually, two are drunk and one is an idiot."
"Oh. Well isn't that just great! So we're just going to sit here, twiddling our thumbs while this country goes kingless, waiting for these people to get sober?! Send out some other men!"
"The others are also drunk, and the ones that aren't have been spluttering about a carriage turning into a pumpkin." Nojiko looked very angry and just stomped around more, hissing out curses. She really didn't feel all that happier when Sanji held her in place, and was actually tempted to slap him. "Princess, I think you should get some rest."
"Yeah. This place can wait another day for me to become king. We'll just find her as soon as possible. It can't be that hard."
"That's exactly what you would say." Nojiko moaned, but seemed much calmer now. "Alright, I'll go to sleep. I just hope you two know what you're doing…" Sanji gave her a reassuring grin.
"We do. I bet we'll find her by tomorrow, princess. First of all, there are not a lot of women with orange hair around here. Second, only one of the few orange-haired ladies has lost her shoes." After hearing this, the princess suddenly remembered something, but as soon as she tried to grab the memory, it hopped away. Oh well. She would be able to remember after a good night's sleep.
"'s strange…thought Chopper wazza reinder…thing…"
"I told you, he's a tanuki!" Luffy laughed, leading his two men back inside. They were gradually getting over the influence of drink, and Franky wished he could forget about the embarrassing moment where he romantically swept Usopp off his feet, stared into his eyes as he babbled about something called the Velocemator, and immediately barfed on his breastplate. When the whole thing was over, Usopp joked that he was glad he only took off his helmet and the legs and arms off, and that Franky had the presence of mind to aim for his shirt instead of his face.
It was still embarrassing, though. Franky, still feeling a bit awkward about the whole thing, mumbled something about going all the way around to the front door, and separated from Luffy and Usopp.
As soon as the knight and the captain walked back inside the welcoming light of the palace, Commander Ace confronted them.
"Ah, there you are…where's Franky? Oh well. You can tell him later – just listen now. The girl Zoro was going to marry disappeared, and we need to find her. You can go ahead and sleep, but you'll be up in the early morning to look for her. Got it?"
"Yessah!" Usopp saluted, while Luffy nodded in affirmative.
"I'll give you information about her before you go to sleep. This girl has orange hair, and according to the prince, her name is Nami. She was last seen wearing a white dress, and she lost two glass slippers while running away. And…I think that's it. Tomorrow, you two, Franky, I, Sanji, and Zoro will go around, looking for her. Both Zoro and Sanji have seen her, so they think they can recognize her by looks. Got it?" The two in front of him nodded, and Ace smiled. "Alright. You get all the sleep you can get, okay?"
Usopp yawned out an 'okay' and trudged towards his quarters, while Luffy ran excitedly off to do something or another. Ace was about to go to bed when two scantily clad ladies approached him. He raised an eyebrow. The commander hadn't realized that there were still women here.
"We'd like to help too." One of them said very determinedly.
"Yeah! We know this girl as well, we're friends." The other said, with as much purpose.
"Alright…" Ace replied, trying not to look at their…interesting hair style. "…I guess I can't stop you…why don't you go ahead and sleep here for the night, and we'll wake you up when we're about to leave?" The two nodded and strode off, as if knowing exactly where they would sleep even if this was their first time in the palace.
"Interesting twins," mused Ace before he fell over onto the floor, asleep.
There was something cool against her face.
It was the marble floor.
Nami's eyes flew open, and she sat up quickly. Crap! She must have fallen asleep! And there was still work to be done! If Alvida or Perona got suspicious about why she hadn't finished everything yet…they might think that she really had gone to the ball without her permission! And then…
Nami hesitated and tried to stop panicking. And that's when she noticed that things that she didn't clean before were somehow…clean.
"Good morning, Nami!" She turned around to see Chopper with a plate of steaming food held out to her.
"Did you do all this?" She asked in an awed voice, swinging her arm around to indicate the clean floors and walls and – she had to check to make sure – ceiling. Chopper suddenly looked bashful and looked down at the gleaming marble floor.
"Yeah…well…I did…I'm sorry, I know you wanted me to go to sleep, but I wanted to help…I mean, as long as I'm here, I thought I should make myself useful…after all, technically, you're still our client, and this is the least I could do after what happened…um…here's your breakfast." The reindeer shyly held out the plate again, and Nami slowly accepted it. She still couldn't believe how clean everything was…
"But…how did you do all of it?"
"Hey, I may be learning, but I do have some magic! I'm pretty sure you won't need to clean anymore for a while." Nami's gape gradually turned into a small smile, and she set the plate down.
"Thank you, Chopper! You're the best!" The reindeer suddenly found himself in a hug, and though Nami smelled like years of hard labor, there was still a nice smell about her underneath all the dirt.
"Haha! Just because your complementing me doesn't mean I'm happy!" Nami giggled and set Chopper back on the floor again, before eating the still steaming food. Now, he was nervous. Chopper watched from below his hat as she raised the fork to her mouth and chewed. "Um…is it good?" He asked, almost fearing the answer.
"Of course it is." Chopper smiled happily and watched as Nami ate it all, unaware that it really wasn't all that great. It wasn't horrible, but it just tasted…off. Maybe he put in the wrong spices or something. Whatever it was, Nami didn't want him to know. She didn't want to hurt his feelings after all.
Nami had decided that, because of last night, she would think more about others. She had to be more open-minded to how others felt, and be kind to everybody no matter how they acted. Like her stepsisters. They had been mean and cruel to her, but there must have been a reason. People aren't born cruel. And so, she had decided she would try to bring the best out of Perona and Bon Clay and try not to think so poorly of them, no matter what they did.
"Oh yeah. Chopper, you should probably hide. They'll probably come down soon." As if on cue, Perona stomped down the marble stairs, obviously paying no heed to how clean everything was. Chopper immediately ran and hid behind a convenient door. Perona glared at Nami in an 'I'm gonna catch you' kind of glare. Bon Clay followed close behind her/his sister and tried to glare in the same way, but failed. Alvida didn't go down at all.
To Nami's surprise, Chopper had also cooked breakfast for her stepfamily. They were all still steaming too. It seemed that Alvida's would have to go to waste…such a pity.
If Perona noticed something wrong with the flavor, she didn't show. While she gobbled everything out of the bowl, she kept glaring at Nami, as if by staring really hard, the orange-haired girl would suddenly break down and confess everything.
"…Can you stop staring at me like that?" Nami asked gruffly, putting away Alvida's bowl.
"If it bothers you so much, then just fess up and I'll stop." Perona sneered.
"Yeah, just fess up already!"
"Stop copying me, you damn idiot!" Bon Clay recoiled as if a snake bit him/her.
"S-sorry…" Nami blinked. Now that she was being more aware of others, she actually noticed how Bon Clay almost always seemed to act like Perona, and how Perona always called him/her an idiot. Then it was suddenly clear to her. Why hadn't she noticed it before? And before she could think of anything else, she just…acted.
"I don't think Bon Clay's an idiot." She said quietly, much to the two's surprise. Was Cinderami actually sticking up for Bon Clay?
Perona contorted her face back into that bitchy sneer. "Really? Then why can't…she think for…herself? Bon Clay always follows me and repeats whatever I say. If Bon Clay really isn't an idiot, then…she would be a more independent person, wouldn't you think? Hah, but of course, I always have to spell out everything for him…I mean her…" Bon Clay was staring at the floor, actually looking sad. Nami never saw anything other than sneers and shouting faces here…this certainly was a change.
"Don't listen to her, Bon Clay!" The slave of the family slammed her coarse hands onto the table, making everything on it jump. (Almost like a certain defense attorney.) "Of course she can think for herself! It's just because of you that her full potential hasn't been revealed yet!" As Nami dramatically pointed at a furious Perona, Bon Clay whipped her/his head up. Nobody had ever called her a she without hesitating before…
But wasn't Cinderami acting a little strange today? Usually, she'd just slam down their breakfast, glaring daggers of hatred at them, before stalking off. Was she actually trying to be nice? Sticking up for…her?
"You're not our real sister! You don't know anything about us!" Perona snarled, standing up so fast that she knocked one of her knees against the table. Not even wincing, the girl immediately faced Bon Clay. "Come on! We're leaving!" Out of habit, Bon Clay stood up as well, so it surprised Perona that as she left…
"You go on ahead." Nami smiled. It was said rather meekly…but it was a start. Perona stared in furious surprise at her sister before glaring at Nami again. And then she left.
Bon Clay sank back down in his/her chair with a sigh of relief. Nami gave her/him/it an encouraging smile. "See, you can do things on your own!" The…person thing gazed at Nami perplexedly before suddenly jumping up and encompassing her in a hug.
"Ahh! Thank you Nami-chan! Thank you! I'm sorry about everything I said in the past! You're a great girl! The best!"
"Ack! Um, I understand! But can you stop squeezing me?!" Bon Clay immediately let go, looking bashful.
"I'm sorry." And with that, she sat back down and stirred her food around a bit. "Man, that was scary…Perona can get very mean when people don't do what she wants them to…" Bon Clay sighed, as if remembering certain situations of that kind of event happening, and finished her/his breakfast. "Honestly, I only started following her around because she was tough, and I thought I wasn't…I admired her. And it became a habit, I guess. And when she started calling me an idiot, I started believing it…Man, I'm an idiot."
"No you're not," said Nami firmly. "Don't make me explain that again." Bon Clay started laughing uproariously.
"How come I never saw how funny you are?" He/she asked, still smiling.
"Because you, Perona, and Alvida always went out and left me behind." The smile disappeared. "Oh."
"No! It's okay! You were only copying Perona all those years. I forgive you! Really! When you're being yourself instead of Perona, you're really nice!" Nami smiled to herself. Score! She found that one of her evil stepsisters wasn't so evil after all. She was rather pleasant, really, and thoughtful. Nami was pleasantly surprised when she offered to help clean up, but refused, since Chopper already did the work.
Now that she had nothing to clean up, thanks to the reindeer, Nami and Bon Clay talked to make up for the last eight years.
It was late morning when Alvida finally came down the stairs. She didn't appear to notice how one of her daughters and the one she adopted were talking. All she said was, "We're going out."
"Oh!" Bon Clay stood up quickly. "Mom! Can we bring…" Realizing that it would be strange if she/he all of a sudden called Nami by her name, she/he continued with, "…Cinderami…?" Alvida looked up. She didn't look confused, or questioning, she just looked up.
"Why? We're only going out for more dress fittings."
"Well…um…uh…" Bon Clay stuttered, fiddling with her/his fingers and looking this way and that. She/He didn't exactly think this through…
"I want her to carry all the dresses I'm going to buy, of course." All heads turned to Perona, who was standing with her arms akimbo. Nami frowned. Why was Perona covering for them? She certainly hadn't done anything for her. Well…she shouldn't worry about it now. It was probably nothing.
Alvida had simply accepted that explanation, and Nami found herself in the family's carriage for the first time in her life. Then, she found herself in an exquisite clothing store for the first time in eight years. Well actually, Bellemere had never thought it a need to buy fancy dresses, so this was actually her first time ever.
It was actually tempting to try on everything, especially with her current garb, and she didn't resist when Bon Clay popped out of nowhere with a bunch of clothes, saying, "Nami-chan! These would look cute on you!" However, some of them were a bit too…skimpy for her tastes.
After changing out of yet another outfit Bon Clay left for her, Nami wandered through the shelves of foreign cloths and half-finished dresses. She had no idea what to do with all the dresses in her arms, and they were almost covering up her vision. That was why she had to look hard when she thought she saw Perona. Deciding that she didn't want to confront the spoiled girl again, Nami just stayed and watched as she talked to three girls, after which they walked away, smirking. Perona, on the other hand, looked aggravated. Our orange-haired heroine silently crept away, not wanting to risk a conflict with an angry Perona.
It was only a few minutes later that Nami saw Perona again. The girl was storming determinedly towards her and she knew there was no escape now. The girl just stood there and accepted her fate.
She said, very loudly, "Hold these things for me, will you?" Nami complied, and as Perona moved in closer to dump her chosen clothing into her arms, she hissed, "Stop meddling with this family. You know nothing about us."
"I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, actually. Bon Clay is happier than she has ever been."
"You may think that, but you're driving this family apart. Leave us alone."
"You're just saying that because you're afraid of losing control. You don't have Bon Clay to follow you around like a dog, and you don't have me to taunt without biting back now. You're afraid."
"Afraid!? I'm not…!
" But Nami was already leaving, already imagining the look on her face. It would be furious. For the rest of the shopping trip, Nami vowed to avoid Perona, but she didn't have to. She saw no sign of her for the rest of the day.
And now it was mid-afternoon.
Finally, Alvida called them all back, and they drove the carriage in silence back to the estate. No matter what, Nami just couldn't ignore Perona's penetrating gaze. She almost expected something to happen when she went home, but instead, Alvida went off to bed and Perona went to her room. Bon Clay went to eat something. As soon as they were all out of sight, Nami whispered, "Chopper…?"
The reindeer slowly walked out from the cupboard under the stairs, where his hiding place was. "Sorry, Chopper. I couldn't bring you, because they were all ready to leave…"
"It's okay. I'm not interested in dresses anyways," he sighed, looking down at the floor mournfully. Nami was about to ask why he was so sad, when she suddenly remembered. Chopper only confirmed it for her. "Robin hasn't come yet…"
"I'm sure she's alright, Chopper. What can you do against a fairy godmother anyways?" Chopper seemed a bit happier as he thought about this, but looked up at Nami with big, morose eyes.
"Then why hasn't she come?" Nami hesitated. She didn't know the answer! She didn't know anything about fairy godmothers!
"Um…maybe she's being held up by someone really annoying that talks to you all day, but never gives you a chance to speak and you can't leave until he's done because you're too polite…?"
"Hey, Nami. I'm going to practice my ballet now. I'll see you later." Bon Clay, completely ignorant of Chopper the reindeer, (sort of because Nami was covering him up anyways) walked up the stairs and into his/her room.
"…Well, at least you'll be happier here with one of them as your friend. I'm sorry your dream didn't…"
"No, it's okay." Nami started smiling again, just to keep Chopper from worrying too much. "It was a stupid dream, really. I don't need to be rich. Anyways, I'm just going to go and prepare dinner."
"I already did that." Chopper watched as the teen turned around, trying to look stern, but failing.
"Sheesh, Chopper! What am I supposed to do? Nothing?"
"…We can talk some more, maybe…"
Back at the palace, in the morning, Ace, Sanji, Luffy, Franky, Usopp, Kiwi, and Moz met up at the front door.
"I couldn't get the shitty prince to wake up. We'll just have to go without him." Sanji scowled up towards the prince's room, before turning to Kiwi and Moz, grinning. He wasn't paying any attention to their hair, for other features interested him.
As if they were expecting it, the twins both said simultaneously, "You're not our type." Slightly disappointed, but curious nonetheless, Sanji inquired, "What is your type then?"
"It's. A. Secret." And with a seductive wink that made Sanji weak at the knees, they were off to do their surprise search for the orange-haired girl.
Or, not so surprise.
"You WHAT?!" Luffy, as if uninterested of all the attention pointed towards him, just picked his ear.
"I just made a whole lot of posters about that girl and told the mailmen people to put them under all the doors. I thought that if everybody knew, then the girl could be found easier."
"Luffy, you IDIOT! What did you put on those posters?!" Sanji roared, shaking the idiot captain very hard. Luffy idly wondered how his cigarette could stay in his mouth like that. He also wondered why the duke dressed up. Maybe he thought he would pick up some girls while they searched.
"Mmm…what Ace told me," Commander Ace suddenly looked away, trying very hard not to make eye contact with the duke. "The fact that her hair is orange, her name is Nami, she was last seen in a white dress, and she lost her glass shoes."
"Why? What's wrong with that?"
"Well, Franky," said Sanji grimly. "Now there are probably too many orange-haired girls named Nami who was wearing a white dress and lost her glass shoes at the ball that we can go through in one day."
"Then let's just ask to see their white dress and let them try on the shoes to see if they fit." Usopp suggested.
"No, that's idiotic. It might not happen, but there's still a chance that more than one girl has the same dress and shoe size." The search team stood around in silence, their situation dawning on them. (Except for Luffy, who was currently watching a gnome, that only he could see of course, munch on a tree a few yards away.)
"But," Nojiko said, strolling towards the group with a triumphant smile on her face. "Only one of them has lost a tiara." Everybody focused on the tiara the princess was holding. The one Nami dropped under the table when the blue-haired girl first saw her.
Alvida hadn't come down and neither had Perona.
It was now late afternoon.
Nami wasn't worried about Alvida. Sometimes the woman would disappear for a long time. But Perona always was seen wandering around every few minutes, never staying in her room for over an hour. Because of her resolution to be more thoughtful, she couldn't help but peek inside Perona's room, just to check if she was okay.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" She asked, glaring at the intruder.
"Just wondering what you were doing. I guess you're still scared of…"
"I'm not scared of anything!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, my mistake! I guess you're just mildly nervous about something then, is that it? It can't be the fact that you don't have anybody to boss around anymore, that can't be it, because you're not a power-hungry witch!" If you didn't know yet, Perona's denial annoyed Nami.
"I'm not power-hungry! You wouldn't understand! Go away!"
"Why the hell do you always act so tough?!" Perona was about to shout something back, but bit back the remark and settled for staring angrily at her bed. "This isn't about those girls I saw you talking with, is it?" As Nami suspected, her stepsister suddenly looked up at her, looking afraid. There was something in that conversation that she didn't want her to hear.
"What did you hear?"
"Enough." Actually, she hadn't heard anything at all, but because she was feeling like Phoenix Wright right now, she thought she could figure it out, just from their conversation they just had and the scene she saw. The nifty music was already playing in her head. "You always act tough because of…your appearance, right?"
"Is there something wrong with the way I look?!" Nami smirked when she heard that. She was definitely on the right track.
"Not exactly. You look too cute for your age, though, and you get teased for it." There was no question about it. She was right. Perona fell into silence, and wasn't even glaring. "So you try to act tough so you won't get teased."
"You're just guessing! You don't know!"
"…What did you say?" Perona looked at her stepsister questioningly. What kind of retort was 'Objection'?
"I said 'Think again'." Nami replied, blushing furiously. She would never be able to forgive herself for that.
"Anyways!" Perona marveled at how quickly the orange-haired girl recovered. "You like bossing everybody around and having power, because back then, you didn't have any at all. You're the one everybody tries to take advantage or control of because of your looks."
"…Alright, so you got it right. So what? It doesn't matter." Perona crossed her arms and smiled grimly. "Just because you got it right, doesn't mean you unders-" And that was when Nami slapped her.
Shock! Anger! Cliché-ness! Perona fingered her cheek and flared up again. "What did you do that for?!"
"Idiot!" Nami loomed over her with an infuriated face, but there also appeared to be tears in her eyes. "You don't have to try so hard to be someone you're not! Just because people make fun of how you look, doesn't mean that it's a bad thing!" Perona caught herself looking at the girl in awe and shook her head and tried to look tough again. She wasn't gullible!
"Well how would you know? Have you ever been judged by your appearance?" She scoffed, forcing her mouth into a scowl.
"You should know. You've insulted me about my cooking and my looks many times." The scowl faded into a gape. Perona's stomach twisted into a knot as she looked up at the girl in front of her. Were they really the same? Treated harshly just because of something so petty, like kid-like looks, or in Nami's case…loathing because that was the thing that her own mom was doing? "I never let it get to me, but you did. That's what's different about us. You can continue acting tough for a stupid reason, but I just want to let you know that I think people who dwell on things too long are pitiful morons." And a second later, Perona was gaping at a retreating back.
"I'll…" Nami turned around, as if she had expected her to say something. "I'll…think about it." A faint smile played on the orange-haired girl's lips, and the two were too distracted to notice the door close quietly.
It was now evening.
The search party was planned to have two groups, as it would be much faster. One would have had Zoro, the other would have had Sanji. Franky and Ace would have followed the prince, and Luffy and Usopp would have followed the duke.
Unfortunately, since Zoro wouldn't get out of bed, Moz and Kiwi had to replace him. They found another kink in their plan right at the beginning when Sanji knocked on the first door, took one look at the Nami impersonator, and completely forgot about what he was supposed to be doing. Moz and Kiwi had to come over and look at the girl themselves before 'convincing' Sanji to leave.
They went through the slow process of going through every house one by one. It was slow because every time they went in one, they usually had trouble with getting the duke back out again.
By the time they had finished around half of the houses, it was late afternoon. The duke offered to take out the food he prepared beforehand for them while they rested, and everybody hastily agreed. They were still in shock about one of the impersonators, who was actually a man.
After finishing their little picnic, the weary group slowly trudged to the next house, hoping that this was the one, but almost fearing what kind of impersonator would be next.
Finally, at late evening, they encountered a house. However, once the tired group walked up to the door, they heard shouts and screams. Sanji, at the front, raised an eyebrow before grimly knocking on the door.
Still evening, Nami prepared dinner (she only had to put down a few bowls – Chopper didn't seem to fail) and waited for everybody to climb down. Even Alvida had to eat sometime.
Bon Clay came down first and smiled nervously at Nami before sitting down. Perona followed, glanced at her, and took her seat. They were both halfway through when the big-eyed girl gruffly said, "'s pretty good." The other two looked at her in surprise before Alvida suddenly appeared, completing the image of a very awkward family having dinner. Minus the father, of course.
Both the stepsisters finished their meal and waited for their own mother to finish, thus, dismissing them to bed, but when she was almost done, Alvida suddenly decided to have a conversation.
"You went to the ball." It wasn't a question. Nami almost snapped her neck when she swung her head around to stare at her stepmother. How did she find out?! Wait…maybe she's bluffing?
"I didn't, of course…I stayed home…" She chuckled nervously, hoping that her giggle didn't just give her away. Her worry was wasted. Alvida took out a poster bearing the orange-haired girl's name.
"Take that." She said smugly, smirking at Nami's gape. "Explain this away, Nami. I'd like to see you try." The accused girl was speechless, opening her mouth and closing again before stuttering out, "Y-you're wrong…that's not me…I…"
"Don't worry, I forgive you."
"Of course, Nami." The rose-colored lips suddenly frowned. "But I can't forgive you for the other things you've done." Nami, of course, didn't know what the angered woman was talking about. She didn't know what she had done, and that made it all the more frightening.
"I-I…don't know what…"
"Of course you don't!" Alvida was shouting now and she stood up, making the table clatter. "You wouldn't know, because you don't understand!" And then she was suddenly in front of her, snarling. Alvida grabbed the fine orange hair and pulled. She started pulling her stepdaughter up the stairs, shouting above all the screaming.
"Mom! What are you doing?!"
"You're just like her!"
"Stop it! Stop!"
"You're just like that pink-haired bitch!" Through the pain that was stabbing through her head, that was the only thing that Nami was able to hear. She tried to stop screaming and said, "Wh-what? You mean Bellemere?!"
"Don't say that name! You're just like her! Always meddling in things that should be kept well alone! Thinking everything she was doing was for the better! Never thinking about the consequences! Always the dreamer!" Nami's head was whirling now and through the fog of pain, she wondered what the black-haired woman was talking about. She didn't even notice Bon Clay grabbing Alvida's arm and Alvida pushing him/her away and down the stairs…
And there was silence.
The door knocked again, only louder, and this time Alvida barked, "Answer the damn door!" Before pulling Nami up and out of sight, into the attic. She pushed her roughly inside the small room, then followed her in to the dank room and bolted Nami to the far wall, before quickly performing her punishment. Through the cloud of pain, Nami saw Alvida leave and close the door, and heard the lock click. There was no escape now…she was left all alone in the darkness.
Perona had just realized she had started crying out of fear. When her mother shouted at her to answer the door, she just stood there, uncomprehending, before Bon Clay limped over to the door. Finally, they both got it open and stared up into a blond man. The duke, they realized.
Sanji immediately grinned at the sight of the cute girl in front of him, but frowned when he noticed that she had been crying. As if she had just realized herself, the girl had started wiping them away while the other one looked over…uh…her shoulder cautiously.
"…Help us…" Before Sanji could actually work out which of the two said that, another woman swooped in from nowhere and smiled coldly at the band right outside her door as if she wished they were gone. Even so, the duke smiled widely at the sight of her, and only a kick from Usopp reminded him of the important task.
"Good evening. We're looking for a girl called Nami."
"Never heard of her." The group blinked at Alvida in amazement. No impersonators? No long process of questioning, only to be met with disappointment? Most of them were relieved, but Ace and Sanji immediately suspected something. Too bad they couldn't just force themselves in and look around. "If you don't mind, my daughter has stubbed her delicate toe and…"
"…and would you like to join us for dinner?" Bon Clay piped up, grasping for a chance to save Nami. Luffy, who was bored (and had been eyeing a troll warily), perked up and shoved his way up to the front. "Dinner! Do you have meat?!"
For once, Ace was glad that his brother had a bottomless pit for a stomach. It would give them time to investigate this further. The commander nudged Sanji and mouthed, 'Stay alert', even though he thought the duke would be watching the black-haired beauty the whole time.
Alvida told them that she hadn't cooked dinner yet, and Sanji instantly offered to cook it for them. There were still bowls on the table, however. They were all almost empty, he noticed, but decided to keep that fact to himself for now.
After he finished cooking and served everybody, the blond sat down himself. Dinner was awkward and silent. The two girls ate slowly, nervously looking towards their mother now and then. She didn't eat at all and just stared blandly at the search party, and once in a while at her two daughters, as if daring them to say anything.
Almost everybody was done now, except for Luffy, who just kept asking for more. Alvida's patience was thinning, which was noticed by Ace. They had to leave soon…and the girl hadn't been found. The commander's intuition told him that Nami was in his house…
"She locked her in the attic!"
Everything burst into action.
The table immediately was turned upside down. Fine china crashed as they hit the floor. Alvida had suddenly teleported over to Bon Clay and was clawing her face, shouting angry words that Sanji would rather not hear. Perona instantly reacted and grabbed the duke by the wrist, dragging him towards the stairs. Moz and Kiwi quickly followed, but Usopp and Franky stayed to try to restrain the ferocious mother from harming her child anymore. Ace quickly took Bon Clay away. Luffy, who was mourning over his food, looked up and saw the two knights being knocked away and Alvida rushed towards the stairs as well. He ran over to stop her, and they both skidded to a stop when Chopper burst out of his hiding place, growing big and muscular.
Alvida's estate was in a state of confusion.
"Chopper?" Luffy asked, staring at the reindeer in surprise.
"Chopper!" Franky and Usopp jumped up, and despite the situation, were immensely glad to see him.
"Luffy? Usopp? Franky?" Chopper stopped flailing his huge arms and stared bewilderedly at his friends.
Sanji, who was still being dragged, looked behind. So Luffy was right. Chopper was a tanuki. He saw Alvida dive under his arms and shouted, "Chopper!" The reindeer reacted and turned around to grab at the woman, but he was too late. Alvida was already chasing after them up the stairs. She was already gaining.
"Sanji!" Luffy's My-friend-is-in-trouble senses kicked in, and he raced after the crazed woman and tackled her, successfully delaying her attack. However, she pushed him off and continued her chase. By this time, Franky and Usopp started running towards the stairs as well, but stopped when Alvida suddenly slumped to the ground.
"Thanks, Mr. Troll!" Luffy said cheerfully. To Franky and Usopp, he appeared to be talking to nothing.
Back at the top of the stairs, Perona was frantically showing the duke where Nami was locked away. "Here!" The door was locked, so Sanji simply kicked down the door. Just by looking at the girl's face, Sanji could tell the situation was urgent, so he ran in.
"That's her! That's her!" Moz and Kiwi chimed unnecessarily from outside the door, but they couldn't see the reason why the duke had stopped in mid-step and why his cigarette just fell on the stone floor.
The blond eyed the ugly gashes…on her belly…her legs…then he saw the bloody knife, carelessly tossed into a corner. The wounds could be infected, he realized, once he saw how dirty the knife was. "Where's the key." He asked quietly, clenching his fists.
Perona was on the floor now, crying, but she managed to point a shaky finger to a small hook on the wall. Sanji grabbed it, unlocked the bolts, and carried the wounded girl out carefully, as if she was a fragile piece of valuable china. Now that he got a closer look at her, he saw signs of being beaten. After a while, he heard Moz and Kiwi follow him slowly. When he walked down the stairs, even the carefree captain gaped at the figure in his arms, almost dropping the unconscious Alvida. Ace had ran up the stairs, but paused as Sanji walked pass him.
"Get the girl up there. We're going back with them," was all Sanji ever said.
The trip back to the palace was traveled in a suffocating silence which no-one dared to break.
The first thought she had was, 'Where the hell am I?'
The second was, 'This bed is really soft.'
The third was, 'What the hell am I doing in a bed!?'
The fourth was, 'I'm not wearing the same clothes as before!'
Before Nami could get to a very disturbing conclusion, a voice interrupted her. "Oh, you're awake now, huh? Good." She turned and saw the blue-haired girl from before. She was Princess Nojiko, wasn't she? "You were quite a mess when you got in, but that Chopper guy was a really good doctor apparently. Had you fixed in no time."
"We got the damn prince to wake up and he's going to decide what happens to Alvida. Her two daughters are being kept in two other rooms to think. A lot has happened to them, after all." Nami stared down at the silk sheets. That made sense.
"So…I'm in the castle?"
"Good detective work." Nojiko said sarcastically, but suddenly stood up. "No! Don't get up!" She forced the girl back down again firmly. "Chopper said that you'll have to stay in bed for a day at the most, so don't move. You can do stuff tomorrow." Nami sighed. There was no escape.
"…What happened?" She finally asked, still unsure of the events that had occurred after she had passed out. Nojiko's face softened, and almost looked sad.
"Duke Sanji found you and just appeared at the door, you in his arms, all beat up. You, I mean. He's having a fight with Zoro now about something or the other…I don't know. Maybe he thinks that the prince should have woken up in the morning instead of sleeping like a lazy ass." Nami giggled as she stared up at the canopy. She never slept in a bed with a canopy before…
"…So…what happens now?"
"Well, you obviously can't go back to that estate. I think you all will stay here." The two jumped when Moz and Kiwi suddenly burst into the scene. "Oh. You have visitors already."
"Oh, you poor girl!" Kiwi (or Moz) squealed, engulfing Nami in a bone-crunching hug.
"Poor girl!" Moz (or Kiwi) repeated, hugging Nami on the other side of her sister.
"Hey!" Nojiko barked, trying to pry the twins off of the choking Nami. "Leave her alone now! She's in no state to accept your hugs!" Kiwi and Moz pouted, but backed away a bit.
"We never knew!"
"By looking at you back then, we would have never thought!"
"You poor girl!" They both cooed and made as if to hug the bedridden girl again, but a cough from the side stopped them. They glared at Nojiko before continuing. "If there's anything you want, don't hesitate to ask!"
"Well…there is one thing…" Nami admitted, and watched as the twins pushed their faces into hers, listening with all their might. "…What kind of guy do you like?"
"He's one of the guys…"
"…That rescued you from your prison…" Nami grew annoyed.
"Alright, stop that. Just tell me." The twins glared at Nojiko meaningfully.
"Alright, alright. I'm leaving. Sheesh, is it really that much of a secret?" When the princess left, the twins leaned in to whisper a name in Nami's ears.
Chopper still hadn't seen any sign of Robin, but he was less worried about it now. Why? Because he was with Usopp, and the knight was telling him stories of his great adventures. He drank it all in with enthusiasm, wishing that he didn't have to go. Usopp was also unwilling to see this little boy leave, and tried to cherish every moment with him.
Franky and Luffy were just hanging out, once in a while frowning at a door that contained Alvida. Eventually, Perona joined them to just chat a bit, and after a little gruff conversation, she began to open up.
Zoro and Sanji were walking around in the rose garden, still arguing. An amused Ace followed them.
"You should've gone with us! Then we could have found her faster!"
"It's okay! You found her in the end!"
"But it was too late, you bastard! She got hurt because of you!"
And on it went. Commander Ace noticed that no matter what, Zoro never denied any of Sanji's claims.
And then finally, Nami was allowed to walk around. Zoro and Nami were to get married immediately. Once again, the orange-haired girl found herself in a white dress that just had an expensive air about it. Zoro found himself in an uncomfortable tuxedo. He wanted to take off the pants, but Nojiko firmly told him not to.
"You're one lucky bastard." Sanji told him up at the stand where the prince was waiting for his bride to arrive. "She's a beautiful girl."
"I don't like her because she's pretty." Zoro stopped, realizing what he had just said. "I don't like her at all." He said firmly, glaring at the blond duke.
"Yeah, okay. If you say so." Before the two could get into another fight, the doors down the aisle opened, and Nami strode in, covered with a long veil. Her dress was being held up by Moz and Kiwi, and Franky immediately started playing the organ. Nami's heart fluttered. She was about to become rich. She was about to buy a new grave for Bellemere.
And Nami's dream came true.
But when she finally walked up to Zoro, he looked down at the small audience – Luffy, Usopp, Ace, the two girls that were brought from the estate…wait, was that a reindeer? (Yes, Zoro is slightly open-minded. Deal.) Finally, he looked at his to-be wife and said,
"I don't want to marry you." He could see her face fall, and he smirked. "I don't want to be king, and I don't want to be a prince."
"What the hell are you talking about; the whole thing's already started! You have to marry someone; you're the only heir, dammit!"
"Well, I'm not getting married, that's that. And don't try to force me, because for now, I'm the prince and I'm doing whatever the hell I please. And I don't want to be the prince. Maybe I'll just join Luffy's little squadron thing." Zoro looked at Sanji's gaping face smugly.
And Zoro's dream came true.
"What? Then who's getting married?" Moz asked from behind Nami.
"Yeah, someone has to."
"Huh? Nobody's getting married? What a waste of time."
"Can we still eat the cake?"
"Hold on!" Sanji shouted, still managing to keep his cigarette in his mouth. "Somebody's got to get married here! This place still needs a king!"
"Fine then, you marry her. You can be the prince." Sanji gaped at Zoro again.
And Sanji's dream came true.
"Wait…but then if you marry her, you'll be the king…that's a fairly short time to be a prince."
"Wait, can you do that?" Usopp asked from his seat.
"I don't see why the hell not. 'Sides, Prince Dartboard likes her. Just make sure to keep an eye on him."
"I don't care! Just kiss so we can eat the cake!" Nami laughed, and looked at her new groom. She realized with a jolt that this was the man in the rose garden. He was the duke? Then he was the one who saved her? An overwhelming wave of gratitude flowed from her over to him.
You know, he was sort of cute, actually.
The new prince, though still bewildered, kissed his new bride passionately. Franky started crying, and Moz and Kiwi 'awww'ed. And all were happy. Especially after Luffy ate the cake.
A few knights wandered in to congratulate the new couple and prince, and listened to the tale of their queen's rescue. Some of the knights congratulated Usopp on his part after Sanji vouched for the long-nosed knight. Though he felt immensely proud and walked around with a puffed-out chest for the rest of the day, what he really wanted to do was to find Chopper and tell the gullible boy his new stories.
"Oi, Prince Sanji?" It would take a while to get used to that. "Have you seen Chopper?"
"Hm? No, actually, I thought I saw him go to get more cake…" In fact, the new prince was right. Chopper did go to get more of the sweet and tasty cake. But on his way, he looked up.
"Hello, Chopper." Robin smiled, suddenly appearing where she hadn't been a few seconds ago. People got out of her way, though they didn't exactly know why. "Are you ready to leave?" Chopper nodded sadly, and they started to walk away in silence, out of the human field. A door appeared in front of them, and Robin reached out for the handle, but didn't open it yet. She smiled down at her assistant. "You seem to be regretting something."
"I…well…I don't want to leave…I made friends here, and I've met an open-minded person…" Chopper looked up at the fairy godmother, wondering if she was angry. As usual, she was smiling.
"I thought you wanted to make people happy, like I did."
"Well…I did…but…" The reindeer looked back again, and saw that Usopp was calling his name, before giving up. The knight visibly deflated, and walked back to the Straw Hat Squadron, head bent down.
"I understand. Go ahead." Chopper snapped his head up to Robin's smiling face, and then grinned widely back. "I've enjoyed working with you." And with that, the reindeer walked away to the door, back into the human field, and started running towards Captain Luffy and Usopp.
And Chopper's dream came true.
Usopp turned at the sound of his name, and saw nobody…but then Chopper suddenly appeared…and then…he was a reindeer? Was Luffy really right?
"Usopp! Tell me that story! When you took down an army of a hundred men with only one cannon!" Either way, whatever species Chopper was, he was still Chopper. Gullible Chopper. The Chopper who believed every ounce of his lies. And he just knew that Chopper wouldn't leave any time soon, not in his lifetime at least. And he would tell his stories all his life, and Chopper would be by his side, listening to them.
And Usopp's dream came true.
"Congratulations, Moz and Kiwi, for catching the bouquet." Nami smiled.
"Oh, thanks, princess!"
"Though I think it's cheating when you have four hands." Nojiko commented dryly, crossing her arms. She smirked a little when the twins immaturely stuck their tongues out at her.
"Hello ladies." Sanji, the new king, (it just sunk in for him, and he was becoming rather smug, which was annoying Zoro. The former prince was wondering whether he made the right decision) sauntered up to the four. "You twins have some interesting tastes in men." The square hairs turned towards Nami.
"You told him?!"
"Well, he's my husband now…and…he sort of wanted to know…" Nami giggled, despite the fact that two of her friends were giving her the evil eye at that moment.
"If I may suggest something…?" Sanji made sure to take out his cigarette before leaning in to whisper something in the twin's ears.
"…Will he like us?"
"Of course." The twins bounced over to Franky and started flirtatiously leaning on his wide shoulders. Franky looked at the both of them in surprise, before grinning widely, now completely forgetting about Porche. A few words were exchanged, and they immediately became inseparable. Franky wondered how he could have gotten such good-looking girls when he hardly exchanged words with them.
And Franky's dream came true.
And Luffy looked around at every one of his friends, even the new ones. He saw Nami and Sanji smiling and laughing together, sometimes embracing. He watched Zoro taking off his tux, but being stopped in time by Nojiko. Usopp was trying to give the former prince pointers, apparently finding it amusing that he was the green-haired man's sempai, and Chopper looked surprised when Zoro refused to listen to the Great Usopp-sama. Franky was laughing uproariously with the two square-haired girls by his side. All his friends looked happy.
And that was Luffy's dream come true.
Luffy grinned as his brother came up from behind and ruffled his hair. Or, he would, if the straw hat wasn't in the way, and they both sauntered over to join their friends in the festivities. And the food. Don't forget the food.
And Robin looked down from her perch in the air and smiled. She congratulated herself on a job well done. Everything had gone according to plan, though that beating certainly wasn't in it. Like she firmly believed: Many people deserved their dream come true. She didn't care if the council yelled at her for doing a little something extra, instead of just focusing on her assigned mission. They wouldn't dare fire her anyways, and if they did, she'd just make more dreams come true her own way.
Because that was Robin's dream.
The fairy godmother left the humans to their festive party and continued her job. There was one more thing to do before the day was over…
Phew. It's finally over...This thing took so long to write, so I'd appreciate it if you all would leave a review. Be it praise or constructive critisism, I don't care. The critisisms have to be constructive though. So yeah. Review, or I'll sic an angry fairy godmother on you.
Speaking of which, I may write more of these fairy tale anime stuff. My sister just told me her idea about Aladin and Naruto. Please tell me yours, though, because I need something to write.
And about the really sucky ending, yeah. I'll make some sort of sequel to explain just what Robin's up to.