A One Piece Fanfic
Written by Zero-Sennin
Location: The Merry Go, a few days after the Battle of Arlong Park
"Hurry up, Nami! I want those maps done last week! Don't you want to save that stinking village?!"
Her hand, already clutching the quill tightly enough to break it, flew across the paper even faster, etching a shoreline into the fibers of the parchment with ink that was either as dark as midnight or bloody red (she couldn't tell, the colors kept shifting).
After some long period of time, she finally finished it - a map of some East Blue island whose name she (uncharacteristically) couldn't recall. As soon as she tore the pen from the paper, she left the room, rushing along a corridor of darkness until the surroundings changed into Bellemere's mikan grove.
Blindly, she hurried to a particular stand of trees, where her chest full of money was oddly sitting in plain view, and flipped it open violently. Ignoring the blatant breach of security that she was allowing by doing this in the open, she dug her hands into her pockets and pulled beli out of her pockets at a maddening speed, shoving each bill into the chest as if it were going to disappear within a few moments; she could feel someone watching her, hear Nezumi's laughter or his murmured threats about taking her money from her after she was done storing it up like 'the weak little mouse she was', but every time she looked up, expecting to see him, no one was there, and she wondered if she'd gone mad.
All too soon, Arlong's annoyed roar would echo across the fields, and she would shudder violently before running back through the inky darkness to the room, unaware of the laughter's growth in volume upon her departure….
And the cycle continued, again and again, and again, and again…eternally.
With a gasp, Nami sat up in her bed, her eyes hollow and her entire body drenched in sweat. After her pulse settled, she looked blearily to the window and realized that sunrise had been about two or three hours ago, as the orange streaks in the dark sky evinced; given the time of year, that probably meant it was close to nine o'clock.
"I've got to get the anchor pulled up so we can set off," she said to herself, as a way to shake off the disgusting feelings that plagued her; ever since the damnable nightmares started, she had to overcome the lingering emotions every morning, and she was honestly tired of it. "We'll lose time at this rate."
With that, she tossed aside her sweaty sheets and went to go freshen up and change her clothes.
When noon came to the high seas, the sky was so clear that with a telescope, Nami probably could've seen Usopp's hometown as if they were five feet away from it. The breeze was the perfect temperature, blowing in the right direction and possessing enough force to carry along the ship at a gentle clip.
While the orange-redhead tended to her new mikan trees, assured that they were all headed in the right direction due to her recent course adjustment, Luffy was sitting cross-legged on the goat-head prow, Sanji was cooking up a wonderful lunch in the galley, Usopp was working on schematics of some sort in his part of the men's cabins, and Zoro was napping on the deck.
After one final clip of the tree leaves, Nami smiled brightly, putting the clippers back in her "tree care kit chest" and resting a hand on her hip.
She bent down, grabbed a book on a nearby stool, and made her way down to the main deck, where her favorite lounging chair was waiting for her. Once she settled into that chair, though, the peaceable atmosphere was disrupted before she could even crack the novel open.
"Nami-swan, marimo-head, Usopp, Luffy, I've got lunch ready," Sanji announced, leaving the galley with a serving plate in his hand. "Today, the Love Cook has prepared a sushi platter, a big steak, and fresh-squeezed punch!"
Luffy blinked once or twice, and then dive-bombed Sanji while yelling "STEAK!!!!", only to be stopped cold when the chef's foot smashed into his face.
"You could've knocked me over, you idiot. How many times do I have to ask you not to do that?"
"But I want my steak," Luffy mumbled around Sanji's foot. "When you make it, it's so awesome, and I'm hungry, and it's lunchtime."
"Well, this is the sushi," the blonde replied tiredly, placing the food on the table next to Nami. "I'm going back for the steak and the punch right now." He ran a hand through his hair and fixed a still-groggy Zoro with a powerful death glare. "Marimo-head, mind your manners and wait for me to come back with all the food before you start eating, or you'll be swimming with the fishes."
The swordsman raised a green brow and smirked. "You can try and put me down there, curly-brow chef."
Sanji would have expressed his mild displeasure with Zoro by killing the man, but as it stood now, Luffy's face was occupying one of his preferred weapons of choice. With a beleaguered sigh, Sanji pried his foot out of its current hidey-hole and walked back into the galley; Luffy immediately picked himself up and sidled up next to Nami, completely unfazed by the tread marks on his face.
"Whatcha reading, Nami? A romance novel or something?"
She scoffed. "No way, romances are so boring. This is an adventure story." Beaming, she showed him the cover.
"Fairy Tail? Sounds boring."
"No, not really," she replied. "It's about this girl that joins up with a magic guild, and makes friends with a hotheaded idiot that uses fire magic, an exhibitionist that can make ice, and a really strict swordswoman that can change armor instantly. It's kind of funny, actually – one of them reminds me a lot of you."
"The exa...eky…that second guy you were talking about?"
Nami rolled her eyes and put a hand to her forehead. "No, Luffy, not him…."
Her gesture of annoyance shifted her sleeve slightly, allowing Luffy to see the tattoo she'd just gotten in Cocoyashi Village; the smallest hint of a nasty scar could be seen under the ink, and though he said nothing, his face sobered up slightly.
Nami noticed this, and smiled, missing the change in Luffy's face. "Oh, you like the tattoo? It's a pinwheel and a mikan mixed together. See?" She lifted her sleeve up completely, and Luffy got a good look at the entire thing. "Looks good, right?"
As the infamous Straw Hat got ready to answer Nami's question, Zoro slowly snuck closer and closer to the table, ready to sample lunch, but his attempt to eat early was thwarted when Sanji's foot came from above and nearly split his head in half. As the Santouryuu user stumbled backwards, Sanji placed the tray with the drinks and the steak on the table, then lit a cigarette and casually took a fighting stance.
"Didn't I tell you to wait, marimo-head? It's rude to eat without everyone present and ready."
"Is that so? Well, I happen to be very hungry, ero-cook."
"Don't worry – you won't be in a second."
To Sanji's credit, the fight started in half that time; when Usopp finally emerged to claim his portion of the food, they were already halfway through with each other. Used to the commotion, Luffy and Nami clustered around the table, joined by the perpetual liar, and grabbed their shares of the meal.
Usopp grinned. "Itadakimasu!"
Within five minutes, the steak was gone and half of the sushi as well; Nami returned to her chair and her book without incident, taking a mug of punch with her, and surprisingly, Luffy sat next to her instead of going back to his favorite perch, holding his punch in his hands. Sanji and Zoro had finally stopped fighting, but they were now in their 'sulking modes', given that they'd fought to a draw yet again and missed their chance to eat most of the food.
Usopp took a deep drink and sighed in satisfaction. "Hey, Nami, I've got good news. I think I can make that...certain thing for you really quickly, provided that we get a chance to stock up sometime soon."
"Loguetown isn't much more than a day or so away," replied Nami lightly. "Plenty of things should be there for you to use."
"Yeah, probably." He looked at Luffy in mild confusion, expecting his captain to express some sort of interest in his evasiveness, but to his surprise, the straw-hat lad said nothing. "Well, I'll get back to work now!"
Slowly, Usopp made his way back to the cabin, expecting Luffy to rush over and badger him until he talked, but his captain continued to sit next to Nami, uncharacteristically silent. Eventually, Usopp shrugged and left, no longer wanting to waste energy puzzling out Luffy's odd behavior. Shortly afterwards, Zoro went to the table and took a quarter of the remaining sushi onto a smaller plate before walking off; Sanji followed his example (obviously, though, the blonde chose to head off in a completely different direction).
Now that they were alone, Luffy finally voiced his thoughts. "Nami, are you feeling better?"
Nami put a finger into her book and looked down at her captain, confused. "What do you mean by that?"
"When I was in that room...." He paused for a minute, trying to remember what he'd felt during the battle at Arlong Park, when he'd faced Arlong down inside of that cramped space, full of papers to the ceiling and pens that were flecked with blood and desperation. "When I was in that room, where Arlong used you... I could really feel your sadness. It was...the worst feeling ever. Worse than a stomachache, even."
The bemusement on Nami's face faded into somber recollection. "Well, yeah, it was...it was kind of tough, sitting there for eight years, doing Arlong's dirty work, but...it was my decision. When you wrecked it, you…you helped free up my heart, I can admit that much."
The echoes of Arlong's voice, and Nezumi's laughter, played through her mind, but she violently repressed the memory with only a slight flinch. Luffy immediately caught this, and asked automatically, "What's wrong?"
"I am not."
"You are," Luffy said decisively, the cajoling tone in his voice from earlier completely gone. "You still kind of have that sadness hanging around you. It's not as bad as it used to be, but I saw it just now."
Nami pursed her lips in mild frustration and looked away, unwilling to admit to anything, and Luffy sighed, sounding much older than he normally did.
"Listen carefully to me, Nami. I'll never, NEVER let you get into a situation like that again, you hear me?" His eyes sharpened as he put a hand on her shoulder, and Nami was a bit unsettled by the sudden reminder that despite Luffy's simple-mindedness, he was still compassionate and fiercely protective of all his nakama. "No one will use you like that again. I swear. So when you draw maps for us, I want you to remember that and be happy. I want you to grin in your new room just as hard as you cried in your old one, and work hard on every single map you make. Understand?"
Something in Luffy's words touched her in a way similar to, yet different from, the time when he gave her his precious straw hat a few days before. The same determination and resolve echoed in his tone, but this time, there was warmth in her heart to accompany it, and she knew for sure that Luffy was going to keep his word, just like always.
Of course, she couldn't start getting sentimental on her captain, partially because it wasn't a particularly sappy moment and partially because if she was caught in the act of mushiness by anyone else, they would hold it over her head forever. Still, she had to express her feelings somehow – it wouldn't be right to just leave him hanging after he'd gone and said something like that.
So instead of doing anything too conspicuous, she put down her book, gave Luffy a small hug, and patted his back.
"I'll remember that, Captain," she said in his ear.
After looking around a little bit more, just to be sure of what she was going to do next, she smiled and added in a small peck, placed right onto Luffy's forehead.
"Consider that a waiver," she added, noticing with an odd satisfaction that Luffy was blushing slightly.
"A waiver…? It's not something I can eat, right? So why is it good again?"
Despite herself (and Luffy's sudden shift into brain-dead mode), Nami couldn't help but grin wider. "Ordinarily, I would have charged you a couple thousand beli for a hug, let alone a kiss, but you earned free ones. Waivers get you things without having to pay for them." She gave him her usual "OK" hand sign and winked. "Don't get used to it, though. A girl's gotta make her money somehow."
The logic clicked with Luffy, and immediately he matched Nami's grin with his. "So I got a hug and a kiss for free…from Nami. I kinda get it." He stood, downed his punch in a huge gulp, and yelled, "Man, this stuff's AWESOME!"
Nami took a sip, and after smacking her lips a few times, nodded in agreement. "Sanji knows his stuff, that's for sure."
Instantly, the aforementioned love-cook popped up next to Nami, hearts in his eyes. "Nami-swan, your compliments have shone a happy ray upon my unworthy soul, and I must thank you for the blessing…."
Nami rolled her eyes and flicked him in the head, interrupting his spiel, and went back to her book…but before she did, she gave Luffy a knowing look, that conveyed one feeling quite clearly:
"Thanks for the talk, Luffy."
In response, Luffy nodded sagely and walked back to the prow, settling himself down on the goat head with a satisfied sigh.
"She's smiling again," he said to himself. "Shishishishi, that's good."
The map room was as small and cramped as usual, and the color of her ink still shifted, seemingly at random, between black and crimson. Yet this time, Arlong's voice didn't echo menacingly into her ears while she did her works, and as time went on, the room itself seemed to morph and expand….
Sunlight began to come in through a window just to her right, and the endless bookshelves full of maps and maps and texts faded away to reveal simple wooden walls. A comfortable bed was nestled into one corner, a chair in another corner, and a second bed not too far from the door. The smell of blood gave way to the fresh salty air of the sea, and the dread clutching her heart gave way to comfort and happiness as her surroundings shifted into the Merry Go's women's cabin.
Eventually, she stood, pushing back her chair with a sigh and a smile, and made her way outside and up to the deck; Luffy and the others were waiting for her there, and though they said nothing as she came to them, she knew that they were part of the reason WHY everything in that room changed so quickly, so wonderfully.
"Hey, guys!" she yelled out, feeling her heart soar. "You ready for a great day?"
Everyone nodded, except for Luffy, who grinned at her and thrust his fist out at her, extending the thumb rigidly.
"You remembered your promise," he said. "I want to see that kind of smile every time you're done with a map!"
The words her dream-self said next were mouthed unconsciously by her real self, with all the love and positivity that she felt in her soul at that moment.
"I've got no problem doing anything for the King of the Pirates."
This is just a little something that I made for those people that like short stories and such; also doubles as practice for writing short stories.
The next TKOSF is eventually going to come out; I'm working hard on it, but real life is also getting in the way a lot.
In the meantime, enjoy this, and the slightly modified revision of Tanjou no Imi (now titled Birth's Meaning) if you're into that kind of thing.
Till next time.
~ZS, the Wandering Reploid Hermit
PS: Yes, I did make a very explicit reference to another manga. If you've read it, and researched the author, you'll understand where it's coming from and why I chose it.