Thirtieth Bite ~ Roronoa Zoro
Last night, I dreamt that I was running. Running so fast that my goddamn lungs were going to burst from my chest, but I didn't care, not even for the sharp pain of reopening wounds. I just kept running, cursing and shoving aside everyone in my way as I ran faster than my legs could possibly carry.
I didn't make it. The gunshots came in too soon.
"Roronoa-san, eyes on the camera!" My eyes narrowed from the white glare of the surrounding lights, and I couldn't stop myself from wincing when the cameras flashed.
In my dream, people were gathered in the city's central square, watching the public execution at a large screen that hung on one of the tallest buildings in the city. My legs already gave up on me, and all I could do was crane my neck upwards and see how Ace's and Luffy's still corpses collapsed on the ground, tied up and bloody. The screen's resolution somehow managed to highlight the crimson red color that gushed from their wounds. If there were any signs of fear in their eyes, I couldn't see it from behind the blindfolds.
Then, the guns clicked towards Sanji, and they didn't hesitate to shoot. Every last bullet pierced through his skin and ripped away his life piece by piece, and when his body fell, I saw how the golden shine of his blonde hair was smeared in so much red.
Whatever happened afterwards, I couldn't remember. Not that I wanted to. But, when I woke up, something in me—and I didn't know what it was exactly—hurt so fucking much that it felt like I was the one who got barreled down instead.
I was actually scared, and that was something that I haven't felt for a very long time.
"How's the take?"
"He squinted a bit. We'll have to take another shot." They had me focus on those glass lenses again, and just having to do so made me feel sick.
"Oi, stupid Marimo. Do you know what fucking time it is? It's a shitty hour to call. Don't fucking tell me you forgot how to read a damn clock. Get back to slee—"
"Just shut up, okay? I—I just want to talk to you."
There was a momentary pause behind the line before Sanji quietly asked, "What happened?"
Lying down in bed with the cellphone pressed against my ear, I closed my eyes. Details of the dream replayed in my head once more. "Nothing." I didn't want to tell him about what I saw. I didn't even want to think about it.
Another pause. I could faintly imagine Sanji reaching out for a nearby pack of cigarettes and lighting it to have a smoke by his open bedroom window. It's always been his habit. "Have you dreamt of your mom again?"
"Don't talk to me about her."
"Zoro—" and I knew that whenever he's skipped the usual name calling, he was being serious, "The last time you were like this—"
"It's not about her this time, so don't force it."
"Okay. It's not about her. So, if you won't tell me what's bothering you, then give me a solution."
"Just talk to me."
"We're already talking."
"Yeah, so let's keep doing that. Tell me anything you want. Whatever's in your mind. I'll listen. How was your day? What did you do? What did you end up cooking for your old man and Napoleon tonight? Was Long Nose okay or was he being annoying as hell? Just tell me so I can straighten things up. Shit like that."
I wanted to hear everything—what he did, what he thought, what he felt. I just needed to hear anything that would convince me that he's still alive.
And, I had a feeling that Sanji knew what I really wanted. Needed. "Oi. Don't bother calling Ace right after. You know that he can be a dick if someone wakes him up at some ungodly hour. Don't even get Luffy to wake him up for you. You know how touchy Ace gets when it comes to his brother. He'd grill you when he gets the chance."
"When's he not a dick?"
"Less often than you."
"Well, you like my dick."
"Other way around, shitty Marimo."
"And, how the hell can he actually sleep these days? How do you? To be damn honest, you don't even sound fucking sleepy." This time, he didn't have a smart comeback for that, and the subject was dropped from there.
We continued to talk for the rest of the night, talking about this and that—pointless, little nothings that somehow became real conversations between the both of us—until early in the morning when the first glow of the sun began to color the sky. Sanji didn't go to school that day. Ace didn't, either, and it was just Robin and I sharing quiet breaks together while practically everyone in the entire school steered clear from our way. It didn't bother me anyway. Not even when I could see that Nami bitch stalking us from a safe distance.
At least, I knew for a fact that the dream was just what it really was—a shitty dream.
"Alright, we're done here!" one of the lead photographers clapped, "Clear up, everyone! Great job today, and Roronoa-san, sharp as always!"
"Thanks," I nodded, my muscles at ease when I finally got to drop the damn pose. Staying in the middle of putting on a jacket was fucking harder than it looked. Not even my daily workouts placed this much strain on my shoulders. Then again, unless it was part of my training, I was never one to stay still. The jacket that hung on my shoulders was now crumpled on the floor as I sat down on the nearest chair and chugged down the contents of a water bottle that was served to me by one of the set crew members.
I swore that the last time I checked, I was a pro kendou player. Not a clothesline model. Only reason that I was putting up with this shit was because I needed the sponsors.
"Excellent take indeed! Yes, yes, these will make good cover photos!" A hand landed on my shoulder, and not only did I feel sick. I wanted to puke. "Zoro, you've been looking exhausted lately."
"Practice," I said, "I have another tournament coming up." It wasn't a lie. The next one wouldn't come until later this summer, but it wasn't the training sessions or the workouts that have been wearing me down.
Duval smiled—smiled with that shit-eating smile of his—as he swept his hair backwards. "Don't wear yourself down too much, Zoro. You're covered in bruises. The make-up artists and photo editors will find it harder to keep your face handsome—handsome like mine."
I swear to God that if he weren't one of the studio managers, I'd fucking punch him in the face. Sometimes, I'd imagine him going ape shit over his "handsome" face once I break his bloody nose. Luckily, before Duval could start another shitty talk about his "handsomeness," I saw Sabo waving as he approached.
"Mr. Park!" Duval clapped, "Good to see you here in the set today!"
"Same, Mister—uhh—Handsome. Yeah, I'm here to bring this guy home," Sabo grinned before turning to me again, "Car's waiting outside. Ready when you are."
"I'll grab my stuff upstairs."
"No valuables, right? I'll just have someone get your backpack for you."
"It's not a far walk."
"Yeah, but, you know—I think it'll be faster if someone can get it for you instead."
From the side, Duval laughed. "Mr. Park has a point, Zoro. Just the other week, we had trouble finding you around the studio."
"Not my fault," I crossed my arms, "The walls just keep turning on me." Sabo laughed, and even I could tell how forced it sounded. In the end, though, Sabo had someone get my bag for me. The wait was definitely quick, but no way in hell was I going to admit that.
When I got my bag back, the first thing I did was to check my phone. Even if he didn't go to school today, I still needed to hear from the stupid cook and see if he was doing okay. There was an unread text message, but it sucked that it wasn't from him.
Zoro, dear little brother, you better be home on time. Tonight's a very important night for me because a special guest is coming, and I want everything to be nice and perfect. Got that?
I rolled my eyes. If the poor bastard really was her so-called boyfriend, he probably wouldn't give a shit about my punctuality, but this was Kuina I was dealing with, and as always, she was forever PMS-ing. Just as I was about to pocket the phone, the message tone went off again.
Zoro, you will not put this phone down until you reply with a message, promising me that you'd be home tonight and that you'd be at your best behavior ASAP.
K. I hit the send button, and she must have guessed what I'd say because it only took a few more seconds until she came up with another message.
God, you're such an idiot! Do NOT just 'k' me! I'm asking for a full pledge from you right now, so promise me that you will NOT screw things up for me later! Goddamn, she was a bitch.
I hit the reply button, trying to come up with a decent response, and as I placed down the first few letters, I could hear Sabo and Duval talking in the background.
"Well, you know that we've always been number one in the ratings, but suddenly, we're going off the charts! Obviously, the news coverage regarding Portgas D. Ace and Blackleg Sanji is the biggest factor. Poor kids, I know—but well, that's business. People always want a good story no matter how grisly the details are."
I found myself mashing the delete button repeatedly. I frowned, eyebrows furrowed. How the hell did I make a typo error that bad?
"Now, if we could only get more coverage, but no. Not only did Portgas and Blackleg just suddenly vanish into thin air, but Newgate's also making it difficult. New World Heights and Whitebeard Corporations have armed men in all corners, the Baratie is closed indefinitely, and lawsuits will be given for any on-duty reporter or journalist who's found within a mile's radius. It's impossible. Newgate and Blackleg even discovered a few undercover reporters from the other stations!"
"Hard to get past people who have that many connections, I guess. Can't hide stuff from them."
"That's what I thought, but do you know what's even stranger? You'd think with how infamous Portgas and Blackleg suddenly became, there'd be angry mobs trying to break through the guards just to grab them on ropes. In fact, there have been groups organizing the mobs, but for some reason, the plans never push through. Not even local gangsters are causing trouble."
The phone kept shaking, and so I had to text using both hands to keep it steady. It didn't help that some of the latest bruises I got—especially the one earned at my side hip—began to pulse. I paused to give it a small rub before resuming again.
"Just between you and me, but you know what I think? Something shady is going on here. Underground, under-the-table work, I mean. Not saying that Newgate and Blackleg are directly involved in it, but it leaves you wondering what kind of people they deal with since they made an enemy of Don Krieg. Just a couple of nights ago, some of our sources received word over a huge organization of men plotting to abduct Portgas and Blackleg—and that was the place where the recent shootout happened."
"I've heard about that. There was a disagreement between the faction leaders which led to the shootout."
"So, they say, and that's what we reported, but I don't believe it. They looked so terrified that they probably didn't give us the whole truth. That or maybe it was because one of their friends was found dead with a missing tongue. There's also that broken trust between the people and the government because of the secret police, Cipher Pol. No luck getting information about that, either. But, I'm digressing, aren't I? My point is that we're all having trouble finding out how we can get an actual story out of all of this. You're in the same school as Portgas and Blackleg, aren't you? I think your father mentioned that you three were close."
"I wouldn't say that. They're just really popular. Everyone knows them."
"Pity. I was hoping to ask if you know what's going on with them. They could already be out of the country for all I know."
I didn't bother rereading whatever I just wrote. I pushed the send button right away before eyeing Sabo. "Alright, I'm done here. Let's move."
"Yeah, it's getting late," Sabo agreed, exchanging looks with me as Duval did some disgusting winking gesture, "We've got homework to catch up on." I didn't think I could even call that a "wink."
"Very well, then. Good bye to you two boys from the handsome me. Regards to your father as well, Mr. Park!" What a narcissistic dumb ass.
Sabo and I were quick to leave the studio, and soon enough, we were already speeding through the road at 80 miles per hour. Sabo handled the wheel, searching through the radio channels as I rolled down the window. The wind was rushing in, and it felt refreshing to feel it blowing against my face and sweeping across my green dyed hair.
"Good thing you showed up," I said, "I seriously wanted to beat the shit out of him." No one talks shit about Sanji or Ace, especially opportunistic motherfuckers from the goddamn media.
Sabo finally settled with a station—no surprise that it was some K-Pop tune playing—before he responded, "Not my favorite guy, either, but you're welcome. I mean—I wouldn't want things escalating too quickly."
"Didn't stop you when you were ready to kick Doflamingo's ass."
"Hey, no regrets. Any sane person would want to make that pink flamingo shut up. Besides, as much as Duval was an all-around douche a while ago, he's got nothing compared to the shit I put up with from my Dad. He's already sucking up to Crocodile as it is."
I groaned. How could I forget the fucking bastard who nearly ran me over with his limo? "Crocodile? He's been talkative in the news lately."
"No surprise. Not only does he have a position in the city council, but he's also Sir Newgate's number one hater. "Critique" is an understatement. My father's just milking whatever Crocodile says in order to keep up the ratings," Sabo glared with disgust in his eyes before adding, "You know what? He's even forbidding me to see Ace now. 'Newgate's too powerful that it's causing all of us big trouble,' 'He's bad company,' 'We don't want anything to do with Krieg,' 'He's not worth getting blown up for—"
Then, Sabo suddenly broke into Korean. Sounded like he was cursing, actually. I waited for him to finish before saying, "Not taking shit, huh?"
"Obviously," Sabo smirked, "My father gives himself too much credit, so he never stops to think of the many times he was wrong about things. Besides, he should actually be indebted to Ace. I would have ran away from home a long time ago if it weren't for Ace giving me a beat down."
"Good," I nodded before reclining the chair slightly and closing my eyes. Despite the strong breeze to wake me up, I lacked sleep, and the drowsiness was starting to get to me. "Thanks for bringing me around today."
"Anytime," Sabo paused before adding, "I'm actually doing this as a favor for Ace and Sanji. The city isn't safe these days. You know, some of my neighbors who own a few properties outside Grand Line are already starting to move out. It's temporary."
"Could totally kick both their asses at the same time any day of the week," I mumbled sleepily.
"Well, yeah, but just saying—you should still be careful. Besides, Duval has a point. You're not exactly in the best looking shape. That's one nasty bruise you have in your face. The guy must have packed a good punch—"
"Son of a bitch was pussy. My sister could do worse."
"You're always flinching—"
"Well, no shit. Training for me isn't singing and dancing."
"And, are those bandages covering things I shouldn't be seeing? Geez, now I can see why the studio hired a few extra photo editors for this job."
Sabo sighed in resignation. "Okay, listen. I know that you and Sanji are not exactly wordy to each other, and this is just from an observational point of view, but the way Ace placed it to me last night, I think Sanji's really worried for you."
"He should worry for himself more."
"Well, he's got all the protection he needs. You, on the other hand—" Sabo paused, hitting the breaks when we arrived behind the traffic, "Well, let's just say you're pretty popular among the street thugs in the city, especially since you've been single-handedly beating up a few gang members who are dumb enough to come any close to New World Heights on a nightly basis."
I opened my eyes partially to glance at him suspiciously. "For a rich, boy-next-door guy like you, I wouldn't think you'd know anything about what goes on in the alleys."
"Let's just say I have an insider friend of sorts." Sabo grinned slightly, "Great dancing partner, too. Done a couple of projects with her already, and I gotta say that they're all part of my best works yet." Then, he started to talk about his steady girlfriend of over two years, Koala, and I just kept quiet and listened until Sabo had to make a few important phone calls. The traffic was barely moving, and it didn't take too long until I fell asleep. It was a more peaceful one compared to the other night, and the only time I woke up was when we arrived in front of my place.
It came to me that Sabo was not one to pry. Not once did he ever ask why I was "popular" among the street thugs and local criminals, and I actually appreciated the space.
Kuina was never the feminine type. When she was young, my older sister ran outside, played rough, loved sports and tore up Barbie dolls and Hello Kitty pillows for a hobby. Our family doujou was our playground, and for a time, she used to keep beating me in kendou no matter how many times I'd train and work my ass off. She was the toughest girl I knew, and I could still remember that one time during her middle school days when I came to pick her up with our old man, and I saw how the older boys would piss in their pants the moment she'd look at them. If she hadn't discovered fashion magazines, make-up, gossip, parties and all of that girly shit during high school, I probably would have been convinced that I've grown up with an older brother instead.
Then, Kuina went to college, and she started dating a few guys. None of them turned out to be serious relationships, but that was before that one semester last year when she got to study abroad for a foreign exchange program, and that was what lead to this.
"These are so beautiful—" I already lost count over how many times I heard her say that, "Can you imagine a guy who's even sweeter than him? Zoro, look!"
"Yeah, they're nice," I said while setting the dinner plates and chopsticks on the table. The evening news was going to start soon, and I remembered what Duval said earlier. Most likely, it would be just another hour of everyone hearing Crocodile and his bullshit.
I could hear Kuina humph. "You're not even looking!"
"I already saw them this morning when they got here! They're purple flowers!"
"Irises, Zoro. Irises with yellow and pink tulips. You should know. Your boyfriend is French."
"I don't get it."
"The Iris is the national flower of France."
"Shitty Cook isn't into flowers and chocolates anyway."
"How do you even know that?" Kuina snorted, "Have you even bothered giving him any of those? I swear. You are the most unromantic guy I've ever met." I would have thrown in another insult, but when I looked at her, I just raised an eyebrow.
The first thing I noticed was that she wasn't wearing jeans or even a pair of shorts. The flowing black skirt she had put on modestly reached her knees, and it matched the dark blue sleeveless top she wore with its embroidered designs and small beadwork. Her dark pixie cut hair was combed neatly with her bangs swept to the side, and from her ears, I could see her dangling tear shaped earrings which she'd only wear during special occasions. She kept her make-up simple, only placing emphasis on the shape of her dark-brown eyes and her slightly glossed lips. Since we were inside the house, she only wore her slippers, but I started to wonder what shoes she was planning to wear with that.
"You look different," I said. It was funny seeing her like this. I remembered the time when she was forced to wear a dress for some family reunion, and that was probably the only time I've ever seen Kuina—a complete Daddy's Girl—actually throw a tantrum.
Kuina had already found a large enough vase for the flowers and so she began to arrange them. While doing so, she reached for the box of chocolates next to her— the expensive Godiva chocolates that came with the flower delivery this morning—and plopped one piece into her mouth. "Different. Is it a nice different?" Damn, she was actually blushing.
"Skirt's fine," I hastily resumed my job of setting the table, "It's not too short."
"Someone's being Mr. Conservative." She held up the box of chocolates as an offering gesture, but I waved this aside.
"Whatever. As long as you don't look like someone's slut, you're fine. "
"And, I'm supposed to hear the 'I'll fucking kill your boyfriend if he tries something funny' line?" Kuina chuckled before adding, "Don't worry, dick headed-but-sweet brother of mine. He's not that type of guy."
"That's good to hear." The both of us turned to see our father who wore his usual cheery smile as he stepped out of the kitchen. He carried with him a plate of tuna sashimi and four small bowls of daikon salad on a large tray.
"Really, you'll love him, otou-sama," Kuina smiled, "He's a classy, refined gentleman. Just beyond perfect."
"Well, you've always been a smart girl, Kuina. I'm sure you know how to choose the right person just like your brother did. By the way, Zoro, have you been in contact with Sanji? How is he now?"
"Fine," I mumbled, "He's just locked up in his own house."
"For his safety, of course. I understand. I do hope things will get better. I quite like Sanji. Ace as well. They're both very good friends."
Not that I believed in God or anything, but it must have been some sort of heavenly miracle how Dad was okay with his only son being gay. It wasn't that he was a complete doormat—because I recall his deep silence when I first told him about it plus the questions that followed—but I figured that his idea of "being a good and honorable man" has nothing to do with one's sexual preferences. Plus, it was like he said—he liked the damn cook. He'd always ask about him, he'd invite him over, and during those times when he did, Sanji would always give his gratitude by cooking dinner for all of us.
"And, what about your friend, Coby? Is he sure that he doesn't want to join us tonight?"
"Turned down the offer. His mom wanted him home."
"Understandable." If they weren't complaining over why Ace and Sanji haven't been turned in yet, parents were already complaining about child safety, and it was because of the entire Krieg business that the school had to introduce some last minute rule where the freshmen could go back to their respective homes as long as they spend a considerable time of the day with their partners. We were busy on most days, though—well, I know I'm busy, and I was going to take Coby's word for it—so most of the time, we'd just talk to each other and make some shit up in our diaries. No big deal.
Soon, it was already ten minutes to seven. By that time, the grilled chicken was already on the table, the rice was properly steamed and the miso soup was left to simmer. I was sitting on one of the floor cushions on the tatami floor, switching off the television when the news credits began to roll. Just as expected, Crocodile's speeches made my ears bleed. This time, he was going on about how Sir Newgate seemed too lax in the whole situation, how Ace and Sanji should be shipped out of the country if not killed, and that all the shit that's been going on points back towards the Whitebeard Corporations CEO who must be having some sort of agenda. What's fucking new?
Dad was watching the news with me earlier, only listening while I kept making all the side comments. However, I could clearly remember his only expressed opinion regarding Crocodile.
"The man is like the cunning snake on a field of grass," he said calmly, "He is crafty because he knows when to strike, and once this skill is mastered, the hunt can already be decided."
Right now, he was in the kitchen to brew the tea. Kuina, on the other hand, was somewhere else, and I could make a guess as to which place. Standing up, I went past one sliding door after another—thankfully, my house was the only place I knew where the walls would never play tricks on me—until I found myself heading towards the veranda that faced the garden. As I approached, I could hear a voice whispering into the air. It wasn't any language that I understood, but the moment I heard it, I knew what it was.
Kuina was sitting on the porch, both palms placed on her lap, and maybe if she weren't wearing a skirt, she'd be hugging her knees. It was a sign that she was tense. Without inviting myself, I sat down next to her, and then she stopped talking.
"Practicing your French?" I asked.
She nodded. "I'm a bit rusty."
"It's your college minor."
"Yeah, but it's different practicing it here. I had better practice when I was in France," she shook her head before adding, "You know, if Sanji weren't—well, you know—then maybe I would've asked if I could practice with him."
"Last time you spoke to him in French was a few months ago, and he said you didn't need practice."
"He's just saying that. You know what's he like with any girl," she said, and I ended up agreeing. It became quiet between the both of us afterwards. I really didn't know what else to say, and it made me wonder how close I really was to Kuina after all these years. Even I wasn't dumb enough to think that I was the best brother she could have. That was Ace's role, and why was it so goddamn effortless for him?
It wasn't that Kuina and I hated each other, but shit happened over the years, and even after all the reconciliations, it wasn't like we were always there for each other. I had school, the kendou varsity, the tournaments, the photo shoots, and my friends. Kuina had her own friends, her own student organizations and the college dorm that she stayed in except on the weekends when she'd come home, but she'd usually lock herself in her own room to study and keep up the good grades. She was way closer to Dad who's probably serving as the only bridge between us during our meal times, otherwise, we'd never stop arguing. That's how it's been for years, and only now did I begin to realize how Kuina seems so much happier these days.
I swore that while she was arranging her flowers, I've never seen her smile that wide.
"Do you know? I used to be so jealous of you," Kuina admitted out of the blue, "Before, I hated to admit it, even to myself."
I raised an eyebrow. "Don't know what you'd be jealous about. Nothing special about me."
"You and Sanji just seem so meant for each other, and what? He's your first guy. Me? Well—" she trailed off, her face forming a small grimace, "College boys are such douche bags."
"What happened to that Ohm guy?"
"Said he wanted to be a Shinto Priest, but I thought he's a bit insane anyway."
"And, that Ryuuma?"
"We're better off as friends. Besides, he loves samurai more than women, and excuse me—I think it would be freaky if my boyfriend somehow looks and acts like my idiot brother."
"Is that Hyouzou mother fucker still alive?"
Kuina's face turned red in an instant. "Ugh, please don't talk to me about him."
"You should damn thank me," I smirked at her, "The guy had a tentacle porn fetish, and if Sanji and I weren't driving by, he would have gang banged you along with his buddies."
"I was perfectly handling it on my own, thank you very much! The only contribution you guys made was to help me take down his entire gang."
"I fucking broke his legs and sent him to the hospital since his face needed fixing."
"And, I'm still bitter because I wanted to do that."
"Well, you helped and you cannot say that you didn't enjoy it."
"Not as much as the fact that I've never seen him again right after that—strangely," Kuina began to muse, "I wonder where he went."
"Maybe he moved out of the country," I shrugged, "Or he really died." At least, that was what the Cook said when I randomly asked one time since I was pissed and needed to beat something up. He sounded pretty casual about it. Might have been joking. "But, what the hell? Except for our dad, you think every guy is a douche bag."
"That's true. You're totally one," Kuina laughed slightly before shaking her head, "But, you're my douchebag of a brother."
I rolled my eyes. "Go back to staying quiet and nervous like a little girl."
It ended with laughter between the both of us, and somehow, I felt lighter than I've been for days. Maybe for Kuina—just by the way she was acting compared to moments earlier—the feeling was mutual.
Kuina checked his watch. "Almost seven. He's really punctual, so he'll come any minute now. I'm—I'm actually nervous."
"You're fine, and I'll beat him up if he doesn't agree." I cracked a knuckle.
"You are not," Kuina shot a glare at me, "This guy is in a totally different league compared to the others."
"You never even told me his name. That's fucking sketchy."
"After what happened with Hyouzou, I didn't want you stalking him in Facebook or something just to kill him."
"I'll see him soon, so you might as well tell me."
"Fine," she took a deep breath, "Well, dear little brother of mine, his name is—"
Maybe if she skipped a few syllables, I would have gotten a name, but no. Perfect timing for the damn doorbell to ring, and the moment she heard it, she practically jumped up, screamed, and shook me by the shoulders while screaming something in French. Then, she ran towards the front door, leaving me alone for my mind to comprehend what the hell I just saw. The next thing I did, I checked my watch.
Seven 'o clock. Kuina wasn't kidding when she said that the guy would be on schedule. I got up, straightening my blouse before walking to the guest room where Dad was inspecting the small alcove. He usually did this before a guest would arrive.
"Ah, Zoro, the tea should be ready by now. Please make sure that nothing's out of place," he said. It wasn't like I needed to. No one really touched this side of the house, but I wasn't surprised that he asked. My old man was always a neat freak. The floor cushions were already fluffed up, the low table was polished, and nothing seemed out of place inside the tea cabinet. The small alcove was also kept tidy with the vertical calligraphy scroll straightened, the ikebana flowers kept inside a small vase, and most importantly, those three swords were there.
When Dad left, I ran my hand against the smooth white scabbard of Wado Ichimonji before doing the same to Sandai Kitetsu and Shusui. No dust formed between my fingers since I knew Dad polished these on a daily basis. They were important heirlooms, living proofs of our family's lineage to the samurai of ancient times. Dad said that one day, he'd pass these on to me, and I was glad that he would. It felt like these three swords watched me grow up over the years, and maybe it's all the sentimentality bullshit talking, but I'd rather keep it that way.
I could hear Kuina laughing from the entrance. Judging from the deep male voice that spoke smoothly in French, her boyfriend must be here, too. For a change, I decided to pull up a smile. This guy was obviously making Kuina happy, and unlike perverted shitheads like Hyouzou, he wasn't planning to take advantage of her somehow. Not while I was breathing.
"Zoro! He's here! Come and meet him!"
Since Kuina asked me to be in my "best behavior," I might as well do her the favor just this once. "Yeah, got it." I turned around to see Kuina entering the guest room and holding hands with—
You've gotta be shitting me.
"Zoro, I want you to meet my boyfriend from Fran—what the hell are you doing?"
I already had Wado unsheathed, but I couldn't slice him fast enough. He pushed Kuina out of the way before sidestepping, and a split second after, the blade was caught biting the wooden edge of the sliding door.
"Zoro, are you crazy?" Kuina screamed. I knew that she was going to murder me for this later, but like many times before, I didn't really give a damn. I was more than pissed, and judging from his facial expression, Dracule Shithawk wasn't happy to see me, too.
I drew back Wado from its position. "What? You haven't told your damn boyfriend about the ancient Japanese tradition of challenging outsider boyfriends in order to test their worthiness?"
"I'm sorry. He made that up," Kuina muttered to Napoleon who reached out a hand and helped her up, "Zoro's a complete neanderthal who runs purely on testosterone at times."
"No matter," he shook his head before he spoke in French again, and whatever he said managed to make Kuina blush. He turned to me. "Pleazure to see you again, Roronoa. Now, put down your sword before you 'urt someone."
"Once you get the fuck out of here!"
"You two know each other?"
"Ero Cook's shitty cousin."
"Ze man I met whose 'orrible sense of direction led me to a strip bar."
Kuina made a face palm. "I'm so sorry. Never ask directions from him. My brother's sense of direction is unbelievable."
"The walls keep playing tricks on me!"
"It's so lively in here," Dad entered, and before any of us could respond, his smile widened, "Ah, you must be Kuina's boyfriend from France. Welcome!" He bowed his head, and Napoleon—who wasn't wearing his pompous looking hat this time—returned the gesture.
"I am 'onored to be invited to your 'ome, Monsieur Roronoa Koshiro. I am Dracule Mihawk, " he said before handing him the neatly wrapped gift he was holding. It had the shape of a large bottle. "A gift for you and your son."
"Oh, Mihawk! How very thoughtful you are," and Kuina said this while giving me the "I-am-going-to-rip your-head-off-and-watch-you-bleed-later" look. I rolled my eyes. As if that's going to make me feel guilty. It was probably some shitty bottle of wine anyway.
"Thank you very much. Ah, this is quite a luxury brand of sake. Already slightly chilled," Dad blinked, peering behind the transparent wrapper, "Kame no O?" Holy shit. How much did that fucking cost again?
"Purely strained rice, I 'ave 'eard," Mihawk nodded, "Somezing to enjoy for special occasions such as zis."
"I'll prepare the sake cups," Kuina said, and I saw that smug look she wore, "Otouto, I'm sure you'd like some sake right now."
"I'll pass," I muttered while sheathing back Wado and returning it to its proper spot before Dad could turn back from his conversation with French Fry and notice. Kuina was able to hear this, and she only rolled her eyes.
Except, she didn't listen because when all of us arrived at the dinner table, I saw three small cups, and I knew that one of them had to be mine. My sister didn't drink sake.
"So, how much sake would that be?" Kuina asked. She was already kneeling behind the dinner table with the bottle uncapped.
The question came to me as a matter of pride on my part, and dammit, I couldn't believe I was losing this. I stared quietly at the large bottle in her hands—the very same bottle that I thought I'd only be able to see behind glass cases—and I snuck a glance at Mihawk whose sharp nose was sticking high up in the air while taking interest in the room furniture.
Goddammit. "Just a little," I barely whispered while Dad took his seat right across Kuina, and I was forced to face Shithawk. Kuina, you bitch. I really wanted to wipe that smirk off her face right now. Right after I kill Gay Paris, of course.
"Hai," Dad nodded when he saw all of us settled in before he placed his hands together, "Itadakimasu!" Kuina and I repeated after him, but Mihawk stayed quiet. I couldn't help but snort when he turned to my sister, looking completely lost.
Kuina giggled. "Hands like this—" she showed him the proper position, "Then, just say, 'Let's eat!'"
"Let's eat." Guests usually come first, and before starting, we waited for Frenchie to get his servings. He only got a few pieces of sashimi, and while he poured himself some soy sauce, I noticed that he was forgetting one thing.
"Oi. Aren't you getting some wasabi?" I asked, and Mihawk froze, his piercing amber eyes landing on the harmless little bowl of green spice that was placed right in front of him. If only I could laugh right now. Weeks ago, I remembered Sanji telling me about his cousin's first experience with wasabi and how he was running around the restaurant as if his tongue was about to fall off. If only he took a video of that.
Kuina sipped from her tea. "Compared to you, Zoro, Mihawk is not a baby. He'll get some if he wants."
He actually did, and sadly, he learned his lesson from the last time. He only added a bit of wasabi on the sauce before dipping in his salmon and eating. Then, he started complimenting Dad's cooking, and I felt like I lost my appetite when he and Kuina were going all lovey-dovey in their French conversations.
At least, the sake was good.
"I 'ave met Kuina in 'er basic fencing class while she was enrolled in ze university's exchange program. By chance, actually."
"Mihawk's family is pretty big in France," Kuina added, her eyes sparkling, "The fencing school I joined is largely owned by them, and that day—" I really couldn't get used to seeing a blushing Kuina.
"Monsieur, is your daughter used to winning 'er matches?" Mihawk asked, "The first time I met 'er, she challenged me eagerly to a duel which she ended up losing."
I nearly choked on my sake. This asshole beat Kuina in a sword fight?
Kuina scoffed. "Everyone in the basic category were complete amateurs, and they took the course longer than me—and how was I supposed to know you were the owner's son and a master fencer?"
"You did not, mon cher, and I would not forget your face when I lectured you over your wrong grip."
"I always tried to teach her to be a bit more humble," Dad chuckled, "Kuina, I hope that time became a learning experience for you."
"It did eventually, but back then, all I could think off was how this guy had absolutely no personality whatsoever and that I was so unlucky to be stuck with him since all the instructors decided that he'll be the one to teach me fencing. I swear that they were trying to get rid of me."
"And, I used to zink zat she was a war-mongering Amazonian queen, and zat my boredom zat day has led to teaching her—" I actually agreed with Shithawk on this one, "Yet, I found myself agreeing. I do not usually teach, Monsieur Roronoa, unless I see potential."
"Oh, really? You never told me that," Kuina giggled, "I'm very flattered."
Dad ate a bit of his rice mixed with the teriyaki sauce. His smile turned amused. "It seems that you two didn't have a fairly good start at first. Something must have happened between the two of you."
"I was starting to get homesick," Kuina said, and I nearly stopped chewing. Kuina? Homesick in France? She fucking loves that place, and I wouldn't be surprised if she'd move there and get a job right after graduation. "And, well, Mihawk actually noticed." How come I didn't know this?
"She lost 'er vigor in 'er training, and one time, I decided to postpone ze day's lesson. On my treat, I took 'er around Paris."
"I had so much fun that day. We went out for lunch at this really fancy restaurant, visited a museum, went rowing in the gardens, and then we shared tea and macarons in this nice café near the park."
"It worked. You were smiling by ze end of ze day," Mihawk regarded my sister with a small smile before saying to Dad, "'er fencing style improved so much after—Monsieur Roronoa, your daughter is very gifted with ze sword and she 'as ze 'eart of a lioness. I 'ave never met a woman quite like 'er in all of France. It was a good four months, but zen she 'ad to leave for New Japan, and well—"
Kuina beamed at him. "And, that's when you realized that you were falling in love with me?"
Mihawk looked at her in the eyes intently, but it only took him a gentle squeeze of her palm and small nod for Kuina to understand.
"It's okay," Kuina spoke, "Because that's what I felt when I was boarding the plane, too." His response must have been so fucking deep if he had to resort to French instead of plain English.
I stood up from my chair. "Excuse me, I'll just head to the bathroom." I was seriously going to hurl right now, and I managed to escape just as Dad started asking about Frenchie's future plans for law school. The smart ass just had to prove his superior intelligence since he graduated with a double degree in political science and western philosophy. Fucking smart ass.
After slamming the door of the bathroom behind me, I sat on the toilet seat and pulled out my cellphone.
"Kuina has a new boyfriend."
His reply came in an instant. "Who's the fucker this time?" Ever since beating up Hyouzou, Sanji made it his personal mission to become Kuina's bodyguard, cock blocker, watchdog, manslayer—you damn name it.
"Your shitty cousin."
"Don't fuck with me."
"Shit. So, that's who he sees during his free time!"
"You only realized this now, too?"
" The guy knows how to keep his secrets."
"His secrets must have secrets."
"I'm going to fucking kill Mihawk when he gets back."
"Shitty Cook. Don't start without me. His ass is mine."
"Then, I'll get the rest of him."
"Deal." At least, Sanji didn't live under the same roof with Kuina, so he could shoulder majority of the blame, and I'll just have to deal with only half of her bitching.
The message tone went off again and again. I looked at the screen, seeing a whole flood of messages.
"Hey, Zoro! I heard Mihawk's seeing your sister! That's great!"
"Ace. Whose side are you on?"
"Sanji, shouldn't you be happy for Mihawk?"
"NO! I AM NOT! I WILL SKEWER AND GRILL HIM FOR TOUCHING AN ANGEL LIKE KUINA!"
"Before going Super Saiyan on me, you do realize that you're making it sound like your cousin is some creepy stalker rapist, right? What is he? Edward Cullen?"
"Bet he watches her sleep."
"Zoro. You're not really helping here."
"Oh, yeah? Heard about what happened in school today? Decken already dumped Fukaboshi's sister and cut class. Don't know if it's true, but people saw him hanging inside the locker room while Luffy was changing."
There was also another rumor that he was watching him shower, too, but if I said that, Ace would probably be a complete dumb ass and run out of that mansion just to kill Decken, and then all hell would break loose with all the search parties raiding the city and some angry mobs trying to get him killed. I know the newspapers would have a field day. That Crocodile bastard would probably say something about irresponsible parenting next.
I jumped when I heard someone banging behind the door. "Zoro! What is taking you so long? Dad's asking where you are!"
"Yeah, whatever! I'm coming!" and that was my cue to quickly send my last message before flushing the toilet and pretending to wash my hands.
Time was slow. It was so fucking slow, and every few minutes, I'd catch myself secretly checking my watch to see if it was starting to get late. I already gave up listening to all that sappy talk between my sister and that French fry, and Dad was too engaged in their conversations. They were talking about French politics or something now, and I just remained quiet on my seat, letting one thought after another passing me by. I was that bored.
Kuina would definitely scream at me the moment Mihawk leaves. Wouldn't be the first time.
The sake was good even if it had to come from that French snob. It didn't match the sliced watermelons that were served for dessert, though. An onigiri would be better. Something plain and simple. Nothing sweet. Too bad Dad didn't make any tonight.
What was the Shitty Cook doing now? Still plotting on how to kill Mihawk? Sounds fun. Did the Long Nosed Guy leave for his home just like Coby did? He better, and I hope he wasn't getting any funny ideas involving my Cook.
In hindsight, I probably should not have told Ace about Decken. Great. Now, I'd have to give a shit over whether Ace really did run out of the damn mansion or not. Security better have improved. Who the hell was even running it the last time? The guy must be a fucking retard.
"It is getting late now, zerefore, I must go. I zank you for ze dinner tonight. It was very delicious."
That was enough to break me from my thoughts. I saw Mihawk standing up, and without thinking, I checked my watch for the last time. It was nearly 9:30.
"Are you sure?" Kuina asked, "Would you like anything else before you leave?"
He shook his head. "My uncle will be concerned, especially zince times are dangerous."
"Do you have anyone to bring you home?" Dad asked.
"I 'ave a chauffeur waiting outside ze 'ouse," and before he could say his goodbyes to Kuina, he and Dad exchanged polite bows. He also spared me a shorter bow, and without a word, I forced myself to give him the same.
But, when I straightened up and looked at him in those golden amber eyes one more time, something from the back of my mind told me that he wasn't ready to leave just yet.
Usually, after a guest leaves the house, we'd help each other in fixing up. After Mihawk went out, Dad carried the plates to the kitchen for washing. Kuina—strangely without screaming some lecture at me—said she'd fix the dinner table. I offered to take out the trash, and immediately after I grabbed the garbage bag, I went past the door, tossed the garbage in the collection bin and turned right on the first corner.
I was greeted with a scowl. "I am appalled to know zat someone as beautiful as Kuina is ze sister of such a brute." Mihawk was leaning against the concrete wall, his arms folded on his chest. I noticed that he was wearing that tacky-looking feathered hat again.
I glared at him. "What gets me more is that I have to keep dealing with you. Where's your car?"
"On the way," Mihawk replied, "You were very quiet at ze table. As much I didn't want to, I left because I figured zat you wished to talk to me. Very well. I wanted to talk to you az well."
"You didn't look surprised to see me a while ago." Mihawk must have known. As far I knew, my surname wasn't that common.
"It was no coincidence. Ever zince I found out your name, I asked Kuina about you."
"And, you never told Sanji."
"My cousin would tell you, and you would mostly likely try to kill me like you did earlier. I can see zat you still want to kill me now, and I generally prefer peaceful confrontation."
I didn't say a thing. I just kept still, my fists clenching so tight that my nails were biting against my skin. Mihawk continued to send me a stern look with those piercing eyes before continuing, "While we very much started off in ze wrong foot, and while I find your attitude 'ighly unsavory, Roronoa, I will tell you zis much—I do not 'ate you, and I do not care for whatever opinion you 'ave of me. In fact, I do not care much for you at all. 'owever, your relationship with Sanji is a cause of my concern."
"If you have something against gay people, deal with it."
He sniffed. "'omosexuality is not an issue to me."
"Then, we don't need your concern."
"You 'ave yet to 'ear me out."
My eyes narrowed, and Mihawk didn't speak, but it wasn't because he was afraid. I knew that I was probably the last person he'd ever fear. His silence was calculating, and I could tell he was choosing his words carefully, so I waited with arms crossed.
Eventually, he decided to speak again. "Regrettably, I must be ze one to tell you zat your actions are indirectly 'urting Sanji. At first, I felt zat you merely objectify 'im for your personal fantasies, but now, it is different. You are getting yourself too involved in 'is affairs."
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," But, in the back of my mind, I found myself returning to my conversation with Sabo earlier, "He should worry about himself more."
"Your visible injuries do not zeem painless. I would 'ate to imagine the not too visible ones." How the hell did he know? Did he have some damn connections, too?
"Just get to the fucking point!" I was tired of hearing this, "I know you have something to say, so spit it out!" It was the same damn record with the same damn lines playing all over again.
Except, this time, it came with a different message all together.
"Roronoa. I would like you to break up with Sanji."
It was the last thing I expected, and it was the last thing I wanted to hear.
"What?" There was nothing but coldness in his voice as he said that with such a straight face. Suddenly, I was starting to see red. "What the fuck did you just say?" It just pissed me off so much to see how he could say it so easily like that.
"I want you to break up with Sanji." What if he were me? What if I was the one to tell him that? What if I told him to break up with Kuina right now? "And, you will do so tomorrow without making it any harder for anyone. I would rather not resort to begging."
"I always knew you were a complete asshole from the start." He makes it sound so goddamn easy— "Getting into a relationship with my sister, and then asking me to break up with your cousin? Fuck you." As if I didn't love even Sanji to begin with.
He must be so convinced about that.
"I don't zink you understand, Roronoa," Mihawk shook his head, "If you were to get badly 'urt—or worse, killed—who do you zink will suffer ze most? Who do you zink Sanji will blame other zan your own stupidity? And, it is not just 'im—don't you zink your family suffer az well? Do you ever zink about 'ow Kuina would feel if she were to lose 'er brother? Bad enough zat your mother—!"
I slammed my foot directly against the trashcan beside us. Mihawk didn't even flinch as it fell and rolled on the concrete sidewalk with after the loud crashing sound. "Roronoa!"
"DO NOT FUCKING TALK TO ME ABOUT THAT BITCH!"
"My point, Roronoa—" his voice was raised, "—is before anyone gets 'urt, whether it is your sister or Sanji, you need to do somezing now. It 'urts, it is painful, but I promise you zat it is a much kinder action if you were to simply end zis now and move on with your life. You two will be safe."
I didn't respond, only keeping the steadiness of my breath as I continued to glare at the man. It was supposed to be my move now, but I didn't have anything to say. Mihawk had already driven me near the edge. I watched him reach for his pocket, and I saw him pulling out a small white envelope. He handed this to me.
Slowly, but cautiously, I took this. "What's this?"
"A check," he handed me a pen right after I opened to see that it was indeed a blank check, "Name your price, Roronoa."
"You're paying me to break up with your cousin."
"Kuina once told me of a delinquent younger brother who'd do anything for money, and zat included being part of some rogue gang and causing ultimate shame and dishonor to ze family. Nearly cost you your life, didn't it, Roronoa? Dragged Sanji and Ace into your troubles as well?"
My hands trembled without my control, creases starting to form on the paper.
"But, I am no better. I am resorting to dirty tricks, after all," he shook his head, "Still. If zis is what will convince you, zen so be it."
I nodded, and then I uncapped the pen, scribbling down the digits with its long string of zeroes on the thin piece of note. "Two million yen, huh? It's a lot of money." When I finished, Mihawk held up a hand in order to receive the check. I only gave him back his pen.
"Don't fuck with me," I muttered under my breath, and I made sure he saw me ripping that check in half before handing the pieces to him, too, "And, don't make me remember that shit. It's bad enough that I can't even forget."
This time, Mihawk remained speechless, his eyes staring at the torn check in his hand.
"It's not about the money anymore," I crossed my arms, "I've moved on from that, and I don't ever want to be like that again. You know why? It's because I met your cousin, and it's because of him that I changed into someone even better than who I once was. Fine. You think I treat him like shit most of the time, and I'm not going to deny that. Sometimes, I think he's too good for me. But, at the end of each day, I'd never forget one thing—that I owed him my life. He saved me once—saved me from becoming one hell of a screwed up bastard—so, I'm willing to repay the debt. I don't care if it's you or fucking Don Krieg. Get in my way, hurt him, make him cry, and I'll just cut you down. No questions asked."
"Admirable." It was the last thing I expected to hear from him. "Stupidly reckless, but admirable." He neatly folded the pieces of paper and placed it back in his pocket, followed by the pen.
I groaned. "Make up your mind over what you think about me, will you?"
"Then, I will admit that I may 'ave been wrong about you," he said, and this caught me off guard even more than when he just called me "admirable," "I zought you were classless, selfish and merely physically infatuated with my cousin, but you 'ave proven me wrong, and zat is an admirable feat. I 'ave always zought of myself as a good judge of character."
"So, you were testing me?"
He straightened his hat. "No, it is not a test. I meant every word zat I said, but you are stubborn, and I will no longer waste my time trying to convince you. I 'ave already done my part. Since you refused to listen to reason, zen, know this, Roronoa—if Sanji is 'urt in anyway because of you, I will ensure zat you will suffer painfully."
"Fine," I snorted, "But, here's my deal—hurt Kuina, and I'll beat you to a bloody pulp. Got that?"
"Oui, we are at an agreement, then." It was the last thing he said before a pair of lights flashed brightly towards our direction, and a black limousine parked itself right beside us.
The house was already quiet when I came back inside. Dad finished washing the plates, and when I saw him, he already took his usual spot in the living room. Not a word escaped him as his eyes remained sealed, and from how his lean muscles appeared relaxed, I knew he was meditating. Quietly, so I wouldn't disturb him, I trailed up the stairs to my room.
"Don't you think it's unfair?" I looked towards the side and saw Kuina standing in front of her room. "No, wait. Let me rephrase that. Don't you think you're being unfair?" Her tone was hushed but dry, and it left a sour feeling, and instead of looking pissed, her face carried nothing but a straight look.
I actually flinched.
"Because you know what? I find you unfair," she said, "When you admitted that you were gay for Sanji, I didn't have problems. I actually accepted your relationship with him, and I was happy for you. So, why couldn't you do the same thing for me?"
I couldn't answer her, and in fact, I didn't need to. She immediately spun on her heel and slammed the door to her bedroom shut before locking it. I didn't bother to even try and say sorry right now. I didn't even bother to knock. I just went back to my room and cursed under a pillow.
If Kuina refused to even talk, then that was a really bad sign.
"I really have to get used to you calling me this late already."
"Sorry." A little half past two in the morning. "I couldn't sleep again." Last time, I must have called him around three.
Sanji didn't say anything, and again, I could imagine him pausing just to light another cigarette before placing it between his lips. "That's okay. Couldn't sleep, either. I'm thinking of cooking something."
"What? You're hungry?"
"No. I just really want to cook," he said before adding in a bare whisper, "I miss working, you know that? I miss those nights where I'd cook dinner for the customers. That restaurant was my damn life, and now it's—" He didn't finish his sentence. I swore that I heard his voice choke.
I kept quiet and waited. I'd say something, but it could lead to false promises, and that was something I didn't want to give him. Especially not now.
"Hey, Zoro," he eventually asked, "Are you sure you don't want to tell me something?"
"I'll tell you eventually—" If I were to be hurt that badly, if I were to die today, then would you really shoulder all the blame? "What about you?"
"Yeah." Stupid Cook. "Do you have anything you want to tell me?" Why can't you be a bit more selfish sometimes? Why don't you just worry about yourself more?
"Nothing," he said, but it took him too long for him to say the word, and I was bothered.
It bothered me to think that just as I had my secrets, Sanji had his own, and those secrets were ones that ran deeper than mine.
What bothered me even more was the thought that maybe—just maybe—Mihawk might actually be right.
~*~ Omake ~*~
Zoro: I don't fucking believe it. Fucking Napoleon is seeing my sister out.
Ace: It can't be that bad. You know, these days, I've learned that it's all in a matter of perspective.
Zoro: No. No. No matter how you look at it, it's fucking horrifying. They'll be dating.
Ace: They already are, and I think your sister is really enjoying his company.
Zoro: And, then they're going to get married, and I'll have to be his damn brother-in-law for the rest of my goddamn life...
Ace: I'm sure you two will be like brothers by then!
Zoro: Then... Holy shit.
Ace: Zoro. Don't make me try to imagine your sister's honeymoon.
Zoro: Fuck that! I'm more scared of their little devil spawns that'll be running around. Annoying little shits.
Ace: Aww, Zoro... You're just saying that now, but when you see them, I bet you'll love them to bits and spoil them rotten.
Zoro: Hell no. Why the hell couldn't Monsieur Moron turn out gay like his cousin? I seriously thought he was gay.
Ace: Hey, Zoro. Come on. That's actually pretty offensive.
Zoro: And, why?
Ace: Well, it's like you're making it come out that everyone who's related to Sanji in some way is pretty much gay.
-awkward coughing sounds from the back-
Ace: -turns around-
Marco: -arms crossed-
Juzo: -cough, cough- Sticky toffee pudding.
Ace: ... Fuck you, guys.
No, Ace. You cannot win this. You really cannot win this... :))
And, because I'm quite lazy right now, I will just neatly summarize this note in bullet points:
1.) I feel bad for Zoro. It's bad enough that Mihawk will be his "cousin-in-law" if he gets married to Sanji. But, now, he'll also be his brother-in-law. Oh dear.
2. ) Zoro's family is probably my most realistic take of a family with the children having strong personalities while the single parent is the calm one. Of course, Zoro's far from a perfect brother compared to… let's say, Ace. Well, the problem with Zoro is that you know he cares, but he just has a really awkward/unconventional/pissed off way of showing that he cares… but he tries. Thoughts, anyone?
3.) But, you have to hand it to Zoro. He actually and (unknowingly) stood up and ripped a check worth 2,000,000 yen in front of a guy whose apparently the heir of one of the big name mafia families in all of Europe who could pretty much get him killed in so many gruesome ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, our future world's greatest swordsman.
4.) If anyone's wondering about what happened to Hyouzou… Well, just remember that Sanji's part of the mafia, and we all know what happens when you hurt a woman in front of Sanji.
5.) I feel like making a one-shot side-story just for Mihawk and Kuina. :)) At least to explain what happened in France. -shot-
6.) Next chapter... is Nami. Yes, Nami. Even I am depressed. -sighs for plot purposes-