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==Chapter 30==

He gazed toward the sea, arms folded. The weather was relatively nice - few clouds, a warm sun, a mild breeze. If he didn't know better, he would almost say that the sea was unaware of what was going to take place in a few short moments.

He spotted their vessel in the distance: an enormous sloop-type ship that could have easily given shelter to thirty or forty people. The figurehead was attention-grabbing, yet not all that frightening; to be honest, it looked a bit silly.

To be honest, Monkey D. Luffy was the last person whom he would have expected to come this far. The boy, despite being son to the leader of the Revolutionaries, was born in a backwater village in the East Blue. Sure, the village had once been visited by "Red-Haired" Shanks once, but that had been relatively early in the Yonkou's career, when he was still relatively unknown. The very chance of the kid setting out to sea in the first place wasn't all that high to begin with.

But, hey. What was done was done. Now, the Strawhat Pirates alone stood the best chance of grabbing the legendary One Piece. He had fulfilled his promise to Roger: any who came to this island looking for it would have to go through him.

He heard the ship drop anchor with a THUD, and saw the nine of them set foot onto the beach:

A teenage boy in a vest & shorts, wearing a straw hat. Upon his face were a small scar and an enormous grin.

A green-haired man wearing three swords at the hip. An expression of wariness dotted his face.

A red-haired girl wielding an odd-looking blue staff. She, too, looked wary.

A dark-skinned teenage boy with a long nose. Unlike the others, he looked as if he was torn between taking another step and retreating back into the ship.

A cigarette-smoking blond man in a black suit. Upon his face was a typical "What? Is this it?" expression.

A large, hairy man with a pink top hat atop his head. He, too, looked a bit nervous, which contrasted greatly with his appearance.

A skinny black-haired woman wearing a cowboy hat. Her face was the most relaxed-looking out of all of them.

A large, muscular man who was wearing nothing more than a bright red shirt and a speedo. He, too, was smiling broadly.

And last, but not least, a skeleton with an afro, decked out in a fancy-looking tuxedo complete with stovepipe hat. Despite lacking eyes and lips, he was sure that the skeleton was approaching the island with wonder as well.

The boy in the straw hat spotted him first, and pointed a decisive finger at him. "You! Do we have to kick your ass, too?!"

The orange-haired girl bopped him, yelling something about not solving everything with violence. He chuckled to himself.

"Correct," he rumbled, grabbing all of their attentions. An apprehensive look came over several of their faces; Roronoa Zoro in particular began to unsheathe one of his swords.

After a few moments of silence, Monkey D. Luffy stepped forward, that fearless smile on his face like always. "Stay back, guys. I can handle him."

Once more, he chuckled to himself. The Grand Line had had much of an effect on the boy; if it had been only a few months ago, he probably would have focused all of his attention on his appearance instead. Everyone else on the Grand Line certainly did.

So, Roger's gamble had come down to this. Two men facing each other on the sandy shores of Raftel, ready to fight to the death over a treasure that some claimed was not even real. But he knew better. Roger definitely had left something behind for this intrepid crew to find. No matter what the outcome of this battle, the world would never be the same. The Golden Age of Piracy would certainly end... but would it give way to a new one? Who knows?

Enough thought. Time to fight.

He beat his bare chest with his fists and raised his head to the sky.


==End of Chapter 30==

Well, this update came pretty quick by my usual standards... guess I just wanted to make up for the abysmally long one that came before it...

To be honest, I really believe that this is what Oda will pull on us at the end of the series; I've always suspected Pandaman of being more than just an Easter Egg character. Of course, Oda will probably kick my ass for trying to predict anything in One Piece by making up an ending ten time more unexpected, but hey...

And now for the trope: The Chekhov's Gunman is a character type that Oda appears to be fond of: someone who is introduced into the story as a relatively forgettable background character, but soon turns out to be massively important to the plot. Examples in One Piece itself include: Hachi, Laboon, Dorry and Broggy (the giants from Little Garden), Mr. 2, etc. The famed Russian author/playwright Anton Chekhov contributed to its name: "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there".

Well, it's been a fun ride, but it's finally time to close the pages of this book. Fear not: a second volume is coming. In which category? You'll just have to wait and see.