Chapter Seven: The Road to Emerald City
"This is bad," said the Tin Woodman, "for if we cannot get to the land we shall be carried into the country of the Wicked Witch of the West, and she will enchant us and make us her slaves."
"And then I should get no brains," said the Scarecrow.
"And I should get no courage," said the Cowardly Lion.
"And I should get no heart," said the Tin Woodman.
"And I should never get back to Kansas," said Dorothy.
—L. Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
An atmosphere of gloom clouded the wagon. Never in his life did Zoro think he would be the happiest person among his nakama—even the ones from another world. He could understand why Sanji was depressed. His spirit was shattered by the illusion the government created. Nami was probably homesick, and Chopper was just mirroring her mood. The two Horses pulling the wagon and the three walking beside them probably wanted to kill them. Usopp was probably depressed about the Horses and Animals in general. And Luffy was always down.
"Oi," all the passengers looked at Zoro, "How do you decide a Wizard if you kill them all?"
Sanji lifted an eyebrow. "What kind of question is that?"
The swordsman shrugged. "I don't remember the history."
"How could he not know the history?" a Horse walking beside them asked.
"He has amnesia." The whole wagon chorused.
"It happens to the best of us," another Horse replied.
Zoro's eye twitched.
"Oz wasn't always governed by a Wizard," Sanji said, "Not really. A few couple of decades before I was born Oz was ruled by a king."
"Why did they change it?" asked Nami.
"Munchkin Land was in a great draught," Luffy answered. His voice was hoarse as if he hadn't used it in awhile, "The Munchkins begged the king for help, but there was nothing in his power he could do."
"Couldn't he just cast a spell?" Nami asked. "Or do a rain dance?"
Usopp shook his head, "There are no spells for making it rain— at least not any that normal people know of."
"The citizens of Munchkin Land grew impatient," Sanji continued. "They begged and cursed the king to bring water to the land, but he ignored their cries."
"He didn't ignore them," Luffy said, "He tried to come up with solutions, but he had none. He searched hours and hours for any spell that could make it rain, but there were none." he blushed, "Or at least that's what Grandpa says."
"Either way, he didn't have the answer the people needed. So everyone grew frustrated and angry." Usopp continued. "Many Munchkins left Munchkin Land to look for new jobs, while others stayed behind to tend to what was left of the corn fields. This went on for three years with many deaths of Munchkins and Animals who stayed behind. Then, when all seemed lost, a ray of hope appeared to the people. The Great Wizard brought water to the land."
"How?" Nami asked. "Didn't you say that there wasn't a spell for rain?"
"There isn't," Sanji said, "but he made it rain."
"How do you know it just wasn't a fluke?" Zoro asked, "That he wasn't in the right place at the right time?"
"He was able to do it on command." Usopp replied. "At a simple snap of his fingers it rained."
Nami's eyes widened, "Wow. I wish he was in Kansas. We've been in a drought for five hundred years."
Zoro asked, "So you made him your leader because he could make rain?"
Luffy nodded. "The old king thought that the Wizard had good intentions, so he made a deal with him. He would resign his place as king and give it to the Wizard if he promised not to bother him and his family. Unfortunately, the king didn't get the deal he was expecting. He and his family were exiled to the Quadling country. Knights were sent to check up on them on regular bases, and if any family member were to leave, they would be executed."
"That's not true," a Horse said. "The king did give up his throne willingly, but he was not exiled to the Quadling country. He killed himself."
Luffy lowered his head, "Oh. I guess I got it confused."
By the end of the day, when they set camp, everyone seemed to be in a better mood. Usopp stopped wearing his hood, Nami wouldn't stay quiet, Chopper was snoozing by the fire, Sanji went on long rants about how great his Heart was (but he never gave her name), the Horses seemed more open, and Luffy wasn't as introvert.
"And so I tore the bandit's right arm clear off!" Usopp pulled at an imaginary arm, "and I told him if he were to ever try to make a slave out of Kaya again, I would take away more than an arm."
Luffy clapped his hands and cheered, "Usopp you're so cool!"
The Lion smiled triumphantly.
"Great," Zoro said, "If we get attacked by bandits on the way we'll just throw you at them."
Usopp's paled, "W-well, it shouldn't be a problem for me if there were just a few, but you know bandits. They like to travel in groups of tens and gang up on you. I think you and Sanji are best to take the front line. Chopper and I'll stay behind and protect Nami and Luffy in case something happens."
The swordsman shrugged, "More bandits for us then."
"You can't honestly be serious," a Horse said, "Bandits are notorious for being dirty, no-good cheaters. If you attack them you'll surely lose." The other four Horses nodded their heads.
Zoro shrugged, "It can't be worse than fighting a Kalidan."
"Kalidah," Sanji corrected. "Jeeze, sometimes I even wonder if you are actually from this world."
The swordsman's expression didn't change, "If you're that scared just gather around Usopp, he'll protect you if any stray thief comes your way."
"You've never been attacked by bandits," the Horse tilted his head to the side, "have you?" The crew—including Usopp—shook their heads. The Horse whispered a quiet, "interesting," but said no more.
The wagon rides were more tedious than when he was on a small boat in the middle of the ocean. Usopp did his best to keep everyone entertained with his far-fetched stories and heroic tales, but all it did was lull Zoro to sleep.
One time, while he was asleep he dreamt of home. He saw Nami's headstrong attitude as she scolded them, instead of the rebellious, uncertain teenage girl. He saw Chopper's sparkling eyes as he listened to everyone's every word, instead of the hard eyes of a protective reindeer. He saw Sanji's pink hearts as he attended to every girl's wish, instead of the overly serious face of a knight. He saw Usopp's large grin as he told Luffy and Chopper about his great adventures on Syrup Island, instead of the face trying to disappear in the hood. And he saw Luffy smiling as he rested against the head of Merry, instead of the desperate boy hiding himself from the world.
When he woke that afternoon to find himself still in the wagon with the doppelgangers of his nakama, he almost wanted to slam his sword into the nearest object in frustration. He would never understand why the man in Kuina's book would choose to live in a world he did not belong in.
"It's getting late," Sanji looked up at the setting sun. He turned to the two Horses pushing the cart. Only one out of the pair could speak. "Find a place where we can rest. I don't think it's safe to travel in the dark, especially here."
"Emerald City is only a few hours away," the Horse replied, "We can make it before morning if we continue."
"No," the ex-knight pressed, "It's too dangerous. We're more likely to be targeted at night. Just find a place to—"
Sanji's eyes went wide just before he slumped over. Nami let out a scream that was quickly cut off as she too fell forward, followed by Chopper, and then Luffy. Zoro cursed as he jumped to his feet and tried to find this unknown enemy. His adventure was short-lived when he felt a slight sting at the side of his neck. He stumbled a few steps before falling out of the wagon.
His body was numb as he lay on the ground. Everything was blurry, but he could make two dark figures in front of him. He tried to lift his hand to at least get one good hit in, but his arm was dead at his side. "Luffy," he whispered as he fell into the darkness.
The cage he found himself in was identical to what he would see at a circus. There was no wall to it, only thin bars wrapped around him, attached to dark red roofs. He felt more like an attraction than a prisoner.
Nami was in a corner with her feet drawn toward her chest, crying. Sanji was randomly kicking bars, hoping to find a weak one. Luffy was still drugged in the corner, asleep. Even as he slept the child didn't seem to find happiness. Zoro looked for Chopper and Usopp, but they were nowhere to be found. He felt guilty for not being worried about them, but something told him that those two weren't the ones he should be worried about.
"You're going to break your foot if you keep doing that." Zoro said.
Sanji turned around and glared at him. "Then how else are we supposed to get out of here?"
He shrugged. "There will be a chance, there always is. You just have to be patient and save your strength. There's no use wasting energy on fruitless efforts."
The blond princess didn't say anything, but he walked away from the bars and sat down.
Being trapped in a cage was worse than being in the damned wagon. At least in the wagon, Usopp was there to tell stories so he could nap. Here he had to keep his guard up in case an opening for an escape was to open up or an enemy was to attack. He already messed up once he wasn't going to do it again.
It was early night when someone came to check up on them--an Elephant and a woman with long rabbit ears. Zoro almost sighed with relief. At least Chopper and Usopp were okay.
"Scum," the bunny spat, "You were forcing those poor Animals to take you Emerald City. They told us the whole story!"
"And what story is that?" Zoro asked.
"That you" she pointed at Sanji who took a step back, "bought them at Sapphire City after you forced out three of their vocal cords! You beat them and cursed them even if they were too tired to continue on. You disgust me!"
The blond looked hurt at the woman's accusations. "No," he shook his head, "that's not true. Usopp bought them! He was going to take them back to his house after we went to Emerald City. They were free to leave at their own will, we weren't forcing them!"
"Lies!" the Elephant blew his trunk. "You forced the Lion to come with you to protect you from bandits—us!"
Zoro raised an eyebrow. "Usopp told you this? I find that hard to believe."
"He didn't have to—" the Rabbit began to say.
'—He told us everything," the Elephant glared at them. "And you," she pointed to Nami who was staring back at them with wide, red eyes. "You are the worst of them all. You forced that Reindeer to be your pet, didn't you?"
"No!" Nami stood up and walked over to the bars. "I never forced to Chopper to do anything! He is my best friend and I would never do anything to purposely hurt him. You can believe what you want about the Horses and Usopp, but I would never see Chopper anything less than my best friend!" then as an afterthought she added, "And he's not a Reindeer!"
The Elephant and Rabbit looked shocked by her words. They glanced at each other, but said nothing. Instead they gave them one last glare and stomped away. Nami let out a frustrated scream and kicked the metal bars. She cried out in pain and hopped on one foot.
"Those damn Horses," Sanji seethed, "they've been telling lies about us. I'm sure Usopp wasn't much help to the situation either."
"Usopp didn't lie," Zoro said, "at least not this time. I don't think he's the type of person to do that, even after you lied to him."
Sanji looked away. "I was going to tell him before we arrived."
"Tell him what?" Luffy asked.
Zoro jumped at the sound of Luffy's voice. He thought he was still asleep.
Sanji didn't say anything. Neither did Zoro.
"What's with the down faces?" Nami asked. "I'm sure whatever it is, he'll understand."
"No he won't," Sanji shook his head, "I don't even get it."
"Now's not the time for a pity party," Zoro walked over to the bars. "We're only hours away from Emerald City. We can't let this little detour stop us from reaching our goal."
"Detour?"Sanji said. "You call being kidnapped and sold into slavery a detour?"
"We're going to be sold into slavery?" Nami and Luffy screamed.
"No we aren't," the swordsman kicked at the bars. He left a dent.
Everyone's eyes went wide, including his own.
"How did you…?" Sanji stopped. He walked over to where Zoro was standing and kicked the bars. Nothing.
Zoro smirked. "I wasn't even trying."
He grabbed both bars in his hands and pulled them apart. The bars struggled a bit, but eventually they bent creating an exit. The iron, Zoro realized, wasn't solid. If he had known that from the start then he would have bent the bars earlier.
"Zoro, you're amazing!" Nami hugged the swordsman, laughing.
"Wow,' Luffy's eyes sparkled, "Are you a magician too?"
"That's impossible," Sanji tapped the bars. Then he tried pulling them apart as well. They didn't budge. "There's no way you could be strong enough to do this. There has to be a trick."
The swordsman slid through the bent bars onto the grass. "It doesn't matter. We have to find Chopper and Usopp, and leave." He gave Sanji a hard look. "Even if he did say those things you have to tell him the truth."
Animals of all shapes and sizes danced around the fire, including the five Horses. Large tents circled the camp. Zoro and the others looked among the dancing Animals for any sign of Usopp or Chopper. There were none. So they sneaked by the tents, peeking one eye inside.
The first tent Zoro found was filled with blue gems, vases, and other antiques. He realized almost immediately that the items came from Sapphire City. No one was in the tent so he went onto the next one. This room was bare except for a stack of hay. Again, no one was in there. The third one he looked in was empty as well, but was decorated with bones and skulls of (what was probably) humans. He glanced back at the party. Lions, Tigers, and Bears were some of the most popular species. Maybe they didn't sell all their humans to slavery…
Before he even could glance into the fourth tent, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He instinctually grabbed for his sword as he swung around, only to catch air. He almost hit Luffy's face when swung his arm on instinct. The boy's face didn't change. Instead he pointed to a tent a few tents down and motioned him to follow.
This tent had many more beds and medical supplies. A flash of Chopper's office appeared in Zoro's head. At the end of the row of beds were Usopp and Chopper kneeling in front of the last bed. Nami sat on the bed behind him, petting Chopper on his forehead. Sanji stood by the bed.
Usopp stood up and placed a bowl onto the nightstand.
On the bed was a Fox/human hybrid no more than six years old. She squirmed around the bed, haunted by feverish dreams. Usopp grasped her hand and she calmed a bit.
"What's her name?" Luffy asked.
"I didn't ask." Usopp rubbed her hand with his thumb. "She was shot by a knight—or at least that's what they tell me." He looked at Sanji, and said, "There is no safe district, is there?"
Sanji shook his head, "I didn't know when I joined, I promise. They didn't tell us—not the lower ranks." Sanji opened and closed his mouth several times. He glanced down at his feet and said, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner."
Usopp shook his head, "I always had a feeling there wasn't one. It seemed too surreal to be true, you know?"
"And you were still going to come," Zoro asked, "even though you knew it meant death?"
The Lion smiled, "Of course. I'm the great warrior Usopp! I've defeated armies of bandits and thousands of Kalidahs! I can handle anything!" he laughed triumphantly.
"Then I shouldn't be a problem."
Zoro cursed as he turned around and found none other than Kuro standing at the entrance of the tent. The man was mixed with a black feline—a characteristic that fitted him well. The swordsman reached for his swords to once again grab thin air.
The bandit grinned, "Missing something?"
"Where are my swords?" he asked.
Kuro shrugged, "We've been running low on weapons lately, so your three were a nice addition. Good quality too, especially the white one. I think I'll keep that one for myself."
"Where are my swords?" Zoro stepped forward. He wasn't in the mood to play.
"If you come closer," he held up a clawed hand. "I might scratch."
Zoro smirked. "Bring it."
Kuro let out a noise that sounded like a mixture between a meow and a growl. He ran toward the swordsman at full speed, claws out. Zoro pulled back his arm and punched him in the face. The feline fell to the floor, unconscious.
It took Zoro a moment to realize the fight was over. He glanced at his hands in shock. Had he gotten stronger, or were the people here weaker?
"Let's go," Sanji tapped Zoro on the shoulder and motioned him to come. The swordsman nodded and followed them out of the tent. The party had stopped and the Animals wandered aimlessly around, looking for them. He pulled everyone back into the hospital tent.
"Run for the forest. I'll follow after I find my swords."
"No," Luffy screamed. "We aren't leaving without you! You'll get lost and then they'll capture you again and sell you into slavery and you'll never get your memory back!"
Zoro's eye twitched.
"I'll find them," Nami said. "I've snuck out of the house hundreds of times. I'll get his swords then meet you in the forest."
"No," Sanji grabbed her shoulders. "I can't let you get hurt. You have the most to lose out of this. I'll go instead. I know this forest better than anyone, so I won't get lost like Marimo."
It took all of his self-restraint not to bash Sanji in the head.
"It's fine," Nami tore the ex-knight's hands off of her. "The shoes will protect me if any danger comes my way. Their magick, remember?"
"We don't' know what they'll do," Sanji protested.
"Let her go," Zoro pointed forward. "We'll go north, toward Emerald City. There's a slight path through the forest. That's the one we'll be taking."
"Emerald City is west," Nami said, "and you were pointing south."
They ended up waiting at the edge of the camp, hiding in the trees to keep themselves hidden from the Animals. Zoro kept a close eye on Nami, despite himself. He didn't know how well this Nami was at thieving, or the how lucky she was. Chopper stood by his side, eyes just as focused.
"Zoro," Usopp whispered to him.
The swordsman turned around, but found no one. He looked up in the trees and found Usopp, Sanji and Luffy resting on some of the branches. He gritted his teeth. They could have told him.
"Zoro," Usopp whispered again, "I can see Emerald City. If we hurry, we should be there just before dawn. There's a check point about two hours away, if we reach it the bandits won't be able to catch us."
Zoro looked the same direction, but only saw trees.
"You can't see it from down there, idiot!" Sanji yelled.
Luffy laughed. Zoro's heart jumped. He glanced up at the tree and found a short smile on Luffy's face. It wasn't his grin, but it was enough to brighten the mood. At least for that moment.
"I see Nami!" Usopp whispered. "She has your swords!"
The swordsman looked back at the camp. Indeed, Nami was twisting through the tents with three large swords wrapped in her arms. There was rustling above as the group climbed down the tree. Then, to their horror, a tree branch snapped. Sanji screamed as he tumbled to the ground, landing with an "oof!" on the ground. He wasn't high enough to do any damage, but it was enough to get the Animals' attention on them.
"Nami, hurry!" Luffy screamed to her.
The Animals turned to her. The teenage girl froze in mid-step, then screamed and started running toward them. Zoro could have sworn he heard her say, "Luffy, you idiot!"
"Shit." Sanji cursed as he ran toward her, Chopper not far behind.
Zoro was about to run too, but Usopp grabbed his arm and pulled him farther into the forest. He glanced over his shoulder. Sanji was now carrying Nami piggyback as they ran toward them. Zoro was impressed by how fast the ex-knight was. He sure wasn't as strong as the other Sanji, but he was much faster. It wasn't long before they caught up. Roars and caws came from behind them as the Animals and hybrids chased after them.
Zoro glanced over to Luffy who was lagging behind. He was mumbling again, only this time much louder and with more energy. His right hand was holding tightly to his hat while the left clenched and unclenched. Zoro glanced at the raging mob, then at the scarecrow. He slowed down his pace until he was in reaching distance of the scarecrow. He grabbed his free hand and pulled him along.
Luffy's mumbling didn't quiet. If anything it increased.
Lightning flashed through the sky, soon followed by thunder, then rain. A lot of rain.
"That's impossible," Nami gasped. "There wasn't a cloud in the sky earlier."
The wind slammed into them, almost knocking Zoro off his feet. Chopper struggled against it, swaying back and forth as it swerved in different directions. Hail rained down from the sky, making running even harder. Zoro glanced back at Luffy. His eyes were hard and his words were becoming faster. What was he doing?
Nami screamed as thunder boomed around them, shaking the very ground. Zoro pulled Luffy closer to him and wrapped his arm around Luffy's waste to shield him from the falling hail. He didn't stop talking.
"We have to find shelter!" Sanji screamed to them.
"Why?" Zoro screamed back.
The ex-knight pointed to the sky, Zoro looked up. A large, gray funnel like cloud hovered over the ground. Zoro's eyes went wide.
"It's a twister!" an Animal screamed.
"Oh crap," Usopp yelled. "Grab onto a tree and don't let go!" He jumped onto the nearest tree.
Zoro glanced over at the Animals. A large group was still following them. He grabbed Usopp by the hood of his jacket and pulled him off the tree. "We can't stop! They'll kill us if we do!"
"Not if the twister gets to us first!" he yelled back.
"It's not going to touch us," Luffy said.
Zoro stopped running. Sanji turned around and yelled at them, "What are you doing? Come on!"
"It's not going to touch us," Luffy repeated louder so Sanji could hear.
"It hit the ground!" Usopp screamed.
Nami screamed again and pulled tightly against Sanji's neck, causing the ex-knight to choke. Zoro let go of Luffy and Usopp and stared at the large funnel of wind. It was dancing around the bandit's camp, sucking in tents and Animals alike. The few Animals that were chasing them were now gone, sucked up by the tornado. Zoro turned back to Luffy who was now quiet. His eyes were focused on the events ahead, his fists clenching and unclenching.
Sanji walked up to him and asked, "How do you know it isn't going to touch us?"
Luffy didn't answer. He just continued to stare at the tornado.
"You're doing this, aren't you?" Sanji asked.
"Luffy," Sanji let go of Nami's legs and she slid onto the ground. "Are you a Wizard?"
Author's Note: Remember when Luffy said Ace was a sorcerer? Well zoningout wrote in a review, "I'm wondering, Ace is a sorcerer using fire, is Luffy going to have magic that can make him rubber? It probably won't come out until his friends are in trouble and then he'll forget his fear and protect them…" Well he's not rubber, but he can cast a mean spell. When I saw that, I burst out laughing. I had just decided the night before that I wanted Luffy to be the one who saved everyone from the bandits, thus revealing his awesome magick skills.
Here's a question for you guys: Who do you think is Sanji's Heart? It's actually not that hard if you think about it. Here's a hint: It's not Alvida. ;D