Hey there. It's been a long time neh? I haven't updated this one since ages ago. And well, I do not know how you would react to this new twist here. Anyway, my thanks to the following people: Flames to Dust, Tsukiyomi No Miko, Iryann, things24, SilentDarkness101, frovenvenus, An1mefreakgrl and Kamizacondor.
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Smoker stood with his lieutenant in front of the marked grave of Roronoa Zoro. He had a feeling somewhere in Shaboady, trouble is already starting to brew. For the first time in his life, he did not feel the need to perform his marine duties. Instead he remained in the island where he last talked with the Straw Hat pirates.
He puffed out smoke from his cigar and did not bother to glance at her. "What is it?"
Tashigi felt fidgety and a little guilty. She remembered the faces of each crew as they absorbed the news that was delivered to them. "Did we do the right thing?"
Smoker shrugged. "Who knows? It's better than to get their hopes up," he stared at the gravestone. It bore the name of Roronoa but it was merely a fake one. In fact, if the Straw Hats would have taken a closer look, they would notice it themselves. But as he had already expected, they were immediately consumed with grief and anger.
He knew how his lieutenant is feeling right now. He understood it. Damn but they went out of their duty and lied straightly to the Straw Hats about Roronoa Zoro. That was so unlike him.
"But – "
He sighed. "I told them where to find his possessions. That should be a first step for them. It would be up for them to find the right answers."
Tashigi bowed her head down. "I felt the anger there when they were all crying about it. I can't fathom just how cruel we were to tell them that lie."
"We did what we thought best," he said. This time, he glanced at her. His own brand of justice had been violated a long time ago already and he wondered which justice is just now. Did he just help the pirates or did he just damn them? He wondered.
He shuddered again as he remembered the swordsman.
He looked just like Portgas D. Ace when he was just brought to the Marine Headquarters that time when he was almost executed. He looked battered and bloody but nothing in his eyes or face would show any signs of pains and all.
Roronoa remained bound on the wall with the shackles around his wrist and feet. When he raised his head to meet his gaze, it was cold and deadly. He still is intimidating just as his reputation had always said about him. Among the Straw Hat pirates, this man is one who would not hesitate to kill if necessary. Proof of that is his overflowing murderous intent. It still remained a mystery to the people how a wild beast like him served under the boy who was Monkey D. Luffy.
They are like worlds apart – the two of them. One is always acting stupid while the other is mostly quiet…his personality still shrouded in mystery. Nothing is virtually known about the man's past. Unlike the other straw hat members, this man's lineage is unknown. Sure they have found out that he came from Kokoyashi village where he trained under a samurai. But news has it that Zoro did not belong in that place. He just happened to have wandered there.
Roronoa smirked. "This time, it is the Smoke guy eh?" he said in a sneer as he moved a little, his action creating a noise from the shackles that held him.
Smoker huffed and leaned on something. "You don't look the least bit worried about what would happen to you."
Zoro merely shrugged. "I am not a worrier. Besides, if it comes to it, then that is that."
"Why'd you do it? I'm curious."
"Do what?" he asked, trying to maintain his innocence.
Smoker scowled at the question. "You have achieved what you wanted most. Why waste it so suddenly and give up on your life? Pirates are supposed to be scum they say," he said. Yeah, pirates are supposedly scum and selfish but the Straw Hat – he learned in his encounter with them – belongs to the exceptions.
He was aware of what the man did in Shabondy Archipelago. By chance, he just heard it from Kuma as he talked with Mihawk about it. So the man was willing to give up his dreams and life for the boy. What an unexpected thing for a man known as Demon Hunter to do.
"Time and time again, it seems that is what you are deemed to do. I'm not a curious man but you got me intrigued Roronoa."
Said man just sniggered, showing no intention at all to comment on it.
"What good sacrificing your life if in time, they would just end up on the same place as you are?"
This time, there was a fierce look in his eyes. "You don't know what you would be putting yourselves into. Luffy is no ordinary boy and nowhere stupid. Whatever you guys plan to lure them, better not pursue with it."
"Is that a threat?"
Zoro chuckled. "Just an advice if you don't want your assess beaten."
"You seem to talk a lot than the last time I dealt with you."
Zoro moved again to find a comfortable position. "Hn."
Smoker leaned away and went near the cell. "Your capture would lure them. I don't know what sort of deal you had with Mihawk but it wont hold for too long."
Zoro snorted. "I did not get myself captured to act as bait. Besides, comparing Hawk Eyes and the Marines, at least he knew how to keep his words and play clean."
"You are probably right but you among all others should know that your captain would not sit well with the fact that his First Mate is held by the Marines. That boy is known to forgive no one who hurt his nakama. That is widely known after Enies Lobby, after Shabondy, after Impel Down."
Understanding dawned on Zoro. "He would come. They would come." He seemed to have slumped on the wall as if suddenly weakened.
There was belief in it but Smoker wondered why Zoro did not sound so happy and hopeful. "Yes that is why your capture was kept from public in fear of having the Straw Hat maneuver his way here again and shame the Marines."
He lit his cigar and the action reminded the swordsman of the ero-cook. He sighed with relief. "Good. Like I have said I did not get my ass captured just to have them save me. I have done what I have. I have achieved what I aspired. That's enough for me. It is time for them to do what they sought out to do in the first place."
"What a selfish man."
"Call it the way you want it."
When Smoker turned around to leave, Zoro stopped him. His eyes held a certain request. "I have saved your life once if I recall though at the order of my captain but nevertheless you owe me. I'm not the type to ask for any payment for what I do but I'll make an exception this time."
"You arrogant fool," Smoker hissed. "If you think I would help you out here – "
Zoro snarled in anger. "What do you take me for? A coward?" he hissed. "I am not asking for anyone to save me."
"So what is it then?"
"If I die, then I die. The rest of them have dreams yet to accomplish and I don't plan to hinder that though my only regret is that I won't be able to see them achieve it."
"Hurry with what you have to say," he said with impatience.
"One day, they will seek you out because you were on that same island that time."
He cocked one brow and glared at him. "You seem to love issuing a threat."
"No. They'll seek you out first for an answer. If they do, tell them I died. Create whatever story you wish to say but I don't plan to have my death stain their hands with your blood."
Ah yes, Smoker thought. Unlike Roronoa, the others had never killed anyone yet save for Robin perhaps. The rest are just innocent still.
"That's the payment I am asking you."
Smoker huffed and turned on his heel. "Or maybe I just did his bidding." He never expected Roronoa's words to come true. They did come and sought him out for an answer and what he said to them probably scarred their souls. He glanced at his watch.
It is almost time.
Vivi walked beside Ace as they followed the whole Straw Hat Pirates. People were moving away as they see them as if afraid that their presence alone would be enough to stir trouble like many years ago when they saved the mermaid.
She felt a lump in her throat as she stared at Luffy's back. She still could not believe that Mr. Bushido is indeed dead. She had always thought the crew is invincible especially Luffy, Zoro and Sanji.
She remembered the short time she sailed with them. She remembered being trapped in the wax with him and Nami. She remembered how he was willing to cut himself free from the wax to help them before they eventually turned into something Mr. 3 had intended for them. His look was serious and determined and she shivered then at how much he was unafraid of death.
She remembered how he and the rest helped her free Arabasta from Crocodile's manipulation. He fought for her just as much as the others did and it hurts to think he is gone for good.
Killed by the Marines.
She could not stomach it. Her knuckles turned whiteas she balled her hands in fists. She had never felt hating anyone with such intensity. Sure she had hated Crocodile for what he did to her country. But it did not come close to the hatred brewing inside her heart now.
"Vivi, what is the convention about?" Ace asked to elicit a conversation.
She shook her head. "I've no idea. In fact, everyone else had no idea about what it is about."
"Odd," he muttered.
"It is to be held in Mangrove 1. I was just making my way there with Carrue after our tour and I happen to run into you guys. And now – " she stopped when she felt like she is about to sob. "I still find it…untrue…"
Ace sighed and stared at his brother's back. "Denial is one thing. Anger is another thing. I'm afraid all of them are too consumed with their grief and fury that they don't recognize what they are actually doing now. They just wanted to avenge the swordsman."
Vivi bowed her head. She had always been a diplomatic person and believed that things could always be settled diplomatically. Yet this time…it does not sit well with her…diplomacy that is…
"I do too," she admitted and bowed her head. "He's nakama."
Ace just nodded his head in understanding. "I do believe though that Zoro had his own reasons for getting himself killed. Well, according to Smoker, he traded a deal with Mihawk. The group was in danger then and it was Roronoa who made a way for their escape."
"With his life as a price."
"I believe so. But I think Mihawk had really kept his end of the bargain."
They all stopped when ahead of them, they saw Marines in Grove 2 barricading the area. What is so special about the auction that they have to undergo such tight security?
Ace moved swiftly and gripped Luffy's shoulder just as his brother was about to charge on the unknowing Marines.
"Hold it right there," he said sternly as he felt his brother stiffen. "The rest of you too."
"I told you – "
Ace regarded his brother carefully before he set his gaze on the others as well. He held all their gazes while Vivi stood behind them, her face in question.
"I won't let you act out on the basis of anger."
He raised his hand a fraction when his brother is about to argue. He knew how it felt to lose a nakama. Damn he felt that too back when he sat on the platform and watched his nakama fight the entire Marine just to save him.
He saw the giant Oars perish with his own eyes so he knew how it felt like to lose a nakama. He could relate with them. He could feel with them but that does not mean he would allow them to act rashly especially when they are still unable to cope up with their loss and anger.
"We came here to get his katana. That is the sole purpose of coming here and not to stain your hands with their blood!"
He shook his head to indicate that he won't have any more excuses. "All of you might feel guilty…some might even blame themselves about his death…but his actions are his decisions alone and as harsh as it may sound, he made his choice. Do you think he died just so you could destroy everything he had just died for to protect?"
Nami choked back her tears and held on to Sanji for support. Luffy took a step back. "Ace…"
Their eyes met. "Don't risk your nakamas' lives in fit of anger Luffy. It is enough that one died just to help you all escape."
"But Ace – "
"You are strong and so are the rest but against the Marine officers all gathered there – you might lose."
He sidestepped when Luffy charged on him like a man suddenly gone mad. His eyes were on fire. The others gasped as they all took a step aside to avoid getting caught in the fight.
Ace was just glad they were not in near Mangrove 2 yet lest they would have already been spotted. He took another step to his left when Luffy once again charged like a bull.
"I told you no one can stop me! They killed my nakama!" he roared. "Don't get in the way because you don't know how it feels like to lose one!"
Luffy stopped at the outburst and blinked. In all his life, he had never dreamt of hurting his brother this way. In his fit of anger, he sprouted words that he knew were just untrue.
Ace felt that stab of pain but he ignored it. He sighed calmly then tucked his one arm in his pocket and turned away. "You know damn too well that's a lie," he said. "You want me to tell all of you what you are feeling right now? You want me to describe it to you in details? You think I do not know? "
Ace loosened his clenched fist and buried his face in his hands. How could he be cruel to awaken an old wound that was never mended by time no matter how much one moved on?
"I'll tell you exactly how it feels – it hurts terribly. Don't tell me I don't understand any of what you are feeling because I felt all those before! I felt it as I watched a comrade die right in front of my eye while I merely sat! I felt it as I watched my comrades fought to the death to save my sorry ass!!!"
He whirled and gripped Luffy's shoulder so hard that his brother actually flinched a little at the force. "And that is why I don't want you to act so rashly because I don't want any of you to feel that excruciating pain! And by all the gods, that must be what he would be thinking if he were alive!"
The outburst must have shaken them so there was a moment of shock. Vivi was first to recover and stepped forward with an uncertain smile. She is not sure if it is wise to get near a man who is so angry.
"Let me find a way," she volunteered.
She gave them a reassuring smile before turning to Ace. The people around here are notorious in the pirate world so the Marines whether young or old could not just let them go unnoticed. It is time for her to play her role here.
"I will be fine. I came here to accompany my father for the convention so by all the rights, I can enter the auction house freely and investigate. I'll try to find his katana. That's probably the reason for this convention – for an auction."
From her pocket, she took out a small den-den mushi and a reached for Luffy's hands. She clasped it closely to his. "I swear we will get it back. I'll contact you through these."
"But it is dangerous," Chopper protested.
She bent down at the reindeer and ruffled his fur. "Don't worry. I'll be alright," she said reassuringly though at the back of her mind she is starting to question why…what is the convention for indeed? What doe the Celestial Dragons wanted to say? Why must it be here in a stranger's place?
As she walked away with Carue, she looked back to see them worried. Luffy pocketed the den-den mushi and called for her. His expression had already changed.
"Take care…promise me that," he choked out.
"Of course." As she started moving away from them with Carrue, the Denden mushi which she just gave to Luffy rang.
"Vivi-sama, where are you?" it was Pell who spoke from the end of the line. There was an urgency in his voice that got Vivi running back to them. Did something happen? Why is he in panic? Why did he sound so worried?
She snatched the snail phone from Luffy without warning much to everyone's surprise. She gave them an apologetic smile. "Pell."
"Where are you?" he repeated the question in hush whisper. "The convention had already started like thirty minutes ago but it is not a convention anymore. You have to come and see this. I can't believe it to be true - "
"Slow down Pell," she ordered earnestly. "What happened? What do you mean it is not a convention anymore?"
"This is an execution."
Her brows drew together as she stared intently at the snail phone.
"Execution?" she heard Nami whisper close to Robin. "What does that mean? Who is to be executed?"
"Explain what you mean, Pell. Execution of what? Of who?"
There was a sharp intake of breath from Pell. Vivi and the others could hear Chaka now. "How did he end up in their hands? There were never news of their capture. How come?"
"Pell," she repeated the name to get Pell's attention. She could not understand why she felt so jittery so suddenly. There is a nagging feeling that she felt with her nakama around as they listened to the news.
"Roronoa Zoro is to be executed in front of the World Leaders and kings as per order from the Celestial Dragons."
Okay. I would end the chapter there. Like I have said I am not sure how you would react to this. On the next chapter, the reason for the convention would be revealed and why it took five years before he would finally be executed.
Please read and review.