Title: Nothing to Choose - Part 9
Fandom: One Piece
Pairing/Characters: Strawhats, Vivi, Nojiko, Tashigi, others, OCs
Genre/Category: What if?, gen
Word count: ~5890
Warnings: Character deaths, self-destructive behaviour
Spoilers/Setting: Spoilers up to the end of Thriller Bark, set sometime between TB and SA
Disclaimer:One Piece does not belong to me.
Summary:A sum is made up of many parts. Take one part away and the sum changes. The Strawhat Pirates are made up of nine members. Take one member away...
A/N: Finally, the ninth part. And it only took me over a year, too. Many thanks goes to threewalls over on LJ, who did a great beta job even though I took my sweet time answering my mails. Thank you! 3 Any remaining mistakes are mine. Feedback is more than just welcome, especially as this was undoubtly the hardest part to write.
In other news, FFN hates be, but that's okay because I hate it back. Screw with my formatting again, you site of the devil, and I swear I'll go postal.
It ends like this
Grogner looked up from his inventory list to see one of the new workers standing hesitantly in the doorway.
"What do you want?"
"There's, uh, there's this guy, he, uh, he's asking if he could board the ship."
"Board?" Grogner repeated with a glance at the list on his desk. There were already enough hands on the ship, but a lot of them were new and might buckle under the strain of working on the Grand Line. Another guy probably wouldn't go amiss. "What work's he willing to do?"
"I, I don't think he's looking for work." The hand looked slightly alarmed as Grogner glared at him, growling low in his throat. "It's all a bit weird." Grogner pushed past the young man. "Sir."
The captain squinted a bit as the harsh sunlight hurt his eyes after the dimness in his office. "This isn't a leisure trip," he grunted as he walked across the deck, the hand hurrying to catch up with his longer stride. "He either works or he doesn't, end of story." He glared pointedly at a couple of slackers and watched with satisfaction as they nearly fell over each other in their haste to get back to securing the cargo. "Why, what's weird with him?" The Grand Line was his home; he'd heard and seen some pretty weird crap, especially when one of those thrice damned fruits was involved. He'd seen what those had done to decent people.
Grogner stopped abruptly, his subordinate running smack into him. He glared over his shoulder. "Dead?"
The hand gulped nervously, "Kinda. I mean, not really, he's talking and stuff, it's just... He's a skeleton." He shrank as Grogner continued to glare at him. "A walking and talking skeleton. Sir," he added quietly, voice high.
"Yes, sir." Grogner growled again, and the boy rushed on, "He wants to be taken to as close as the Red Line as possible. I told him we only go as far as Whiskey Peak, but that seems to be okay..." He trailed of as he noticed that his captain wasn't listening anymore.
Of all the godless things Grogner had seen on this godforsaken ocean... "We're not taking a goddamn skeleton with us! You have any idea how much bad luck it brings to take the dead on a journey? God knows what disasters the walking dead will bring to us!"
"That's what he said, too," the hand offered quietly, "that death seems to follow him. Then he made some kind of joke, I think, and started laughing. As I said, sir, it's all very weird."
Brook looked back at the Thousand Sunny for the last time. The ship bathed in the silvery moonlight, its masts rising towards the glistering stars as it throned majestically on a bed of pale sand and shining waves.
The scene was breathtaking and Brook itched to do it justice with a song, with a ballad as beautiful and sad as the sight before him, and the nakama he had left behind.
'Forcing the worldly remains of the dead to journey is bad luck, you know. It invites Death to come and take another life.'
The echo of Usopp's words, unthinkingly uttered in a weak moment when he thought himself unobserved, regretted the moment they had been spoken (but oh! So very true!) curbed the urge.
Shouldn't Brook have known better? He, who had sailed aimlessly for years in the endless fog of the Florian Triangle with nothing but the remains of his dead nakama? He, the only one who could never die? Maybe that was the real curse of the Yomi Yomi no Mi; to bring death to those the eater held dear.
As Brook stood there, on this hill overseeing the shore the Sunny had anchored off, he was glad that he had no eyes with which to see. Really, it was for the best. After all, this way he didn't have to see how painful it had been for his grieving nakama to look at the walking dead (or look past him, he should say. But not at him, and certainly never looking him in the eyes.)
Who would want to see the living dead when they were still mourning the death of a beloved friend?
But they wouldn't have to, not anymore. If he still had a heart he was sure it would beat wildly and painfully, nearly bursting from his breast, but as it was there was only an empty hole in his chest as he turned around for the last time and walked away.
"Farewell, my friends. I will remember you for as long as I live – though I'm already dead!"
Houdu stepped into the dark room quietly, the cloth of her qipao rustling softly. She frowned, unhappy with the slight noise; it had taken her years to master the ability of moving soundlessly. But a battle wound she received months ago impaired her movements, and she was still wasn't able to fully compensate for her leg's new weakness. She narrowed her eyes in annoyance; less than perfect displeased her.
She walked further into the quiet room, the rustling of her dress louder to her than the sound of the waves hitting the ship, the creaking of wood, the light snoring of the room's occupant. She came to a stop beside a small bundle of blankets on the ground, its rhythmic rising in time with the snores proof that their newest member had once again managed to fall off the grates that served as his bed without waking from his slumber.
Houdu felt the urge to roll her eyes but she curbed it, blaming her captain for the lapse in composure even as the corner of her mouth quirked involuntarily. Three years of serving under her captain and all her training seemed to have gone to waste. Her mentors would be scandalised.
"Chopper," Houdu said softly, kneeling next to the bundle and pushing the covers out of the way to free the young pirate from the tangle of blankets. "Chopper," she said again, gripping his tiny shoulder and shaking it, "you need to get up. Now."
She tightened her grip on his shoulder, and with a yelp of pain the little reindeer started awake, transforming into his human shape by instinct. Houdu didn't let go, not even when Chopper turned his shoulder away, trying to dislodge her hand. She rose from her kneeling position, using her grip to haul him up, keeping him upright when the sudden movement made him stumble. Only when his shining eyes found hers did she let go, and he rubbed his smarting shoulder with a wince.
"You have work to do."
"Already? But-but I've only just gone to bed! How late is it?"
"Early," Houdu said, turning around and exiting the small room. She ignored his whining, making her way up the stairs that led to the deck. Outside the air was fresh and cold, the clear night sky highlighted by thousands of stars. If Houdu had been alone, or maybe in the presence of her captain, she might have stopped to admire the lovely sight, but as it was it was Chopper's increasing moaning that made her halt. Instead of admiring the star-filled sky she turned around and fixed her charge with a long stare.
Chopper gulped, but quieted down. When Houdu was sure that she had his full attention she spoke, "Why are you here, Chopper?"
He blinked at her, uncertain, but at her steady gaze he answered hesitantly, "To grow up. To become a real man who doesn't need anyone!" A petulant tone entered his voice towards the end and Houdu suppressed an annoyed sigh.
She had no use for childish displays such as these and yet, wasn't this exactly why her captain entrusted Chopper to her care? Grow up indeed, she thought, and for a brief moment she remembered when her captain had called for her, introduced her to the tiny, desperate, stubborn mess Chopper had been at the time.
'This is our newest crew member, Chopper,' her captain had said, with the infuriating smile that tested even Houdu's patience, 'he was a member of the Strawhats. Chopper, this is Houdu, my impeccable first mate.' A wink at Houdu, who had felt both trepidation and annoyance rising. 'She'll make sure that your dream comes true.'
Chopper had looked at Houdu with shining eyes back then, but she had ignored him in favour of pinning her captain with a blank stare. 'And what is it that Chopper dreams of, Captain?'
A playful laugh, the kind that always spelled trouble for Houdu. Her captain's eyes had sparkled with mirth. 'Chopper here wants to grow up and become a man. You will help him, won't you Houdu?'
Now Houdu was stuck with the uniquely frustrating task of making sure that a young reindeer grew up and became a man, and for a fleeting moment she wondered why he couldn't have done that on the Strawhats' ship.
Chopper sniffled as he ran down the stairs, wiping the tears away from his eyes with his hooves.
Stupid Sanji, saying stupid things.
His eyes lit up as he saw Robin leaning against the railing, staring at the sea. With a great sob he launched himself at her, seeking her soothing embrace. He loved all his nakama (even stupid Sanji who had said mean things to Chopper), but Robin understood him best. Robin never got angry, or impatient with him, she was always smiling and kind.
Like Luffy had been.
A fresh batch of tears flowed from his eyes and he sobbed into Robin's lap, but the expected comfort of her arms didn't come. His tears dried up, confusion momentarily pushing his hurt feelings aside as he stared up at Robin. Her face was averted, tense as she stared at something to his right.
"R-Robin?" he stammered.
Robin relaxed slightly, but still she didn't look at him. When she spoke, she sounded tired. "Perhaps you should seek out someone else to comfort you today, Doctor-san."
Chopper stared at her uncomprehendingly. "Why?" he asked, turning to see what it was Robin was gazing at but seeing nothing.
He looked back to catch her eyes fluttering closed, jaw locked tightly as a brief expression of pain hushed over her face, and dread filled his stomach with lead.
"I merely think-" Her voice rose on the last word and she broke off, clenching her jaw to prevent whatever it was she wanted to say from leaving her tongue.
Despite the bright afternoon sun and warm breeze Chopper felt suddenly very cold.
"Is something wrong?"
Uncomfortable silence descended between them, and Chopper hadn't realised just how tense Robin had been until she took a deep breath and relaxed, the action palpable from his position. He started to feel sick, shivers running through his small body.
She finally turned her head, but instead of looking at him her eyes stared unseeingly down at him.
"Of course not." Her arms came up around him, but the embrace lacked the usual feelings of warmth and comfort. Instead it felt stiff, forced, and tears burned at the back of Chopper's eyes again.
Robin smiled and asked him what had upset him, but the smile was all wrong and her voice sounded strange to his ears. Something was wrong, and Chopper felt sick.
He told her anyway.
"Sanji, he, he was cooking, and I just had to think about L-Luffy, and I started crying, and..." And the tears fell again as he forgot Robin's strange behaviour in favour of the grief that threatened to suffocate him. If only Luffy wasn't dead, and Brook hadn't left them! None of this would have happened if the two of them were here! "Sanji went mad, saying mean things and calling me childish and a crybaby!"
Chopper expected Robin to comfort and tell him that Sanji didn't mean the things he had said. But instead of reassuring him, Robin tensed once more and made a non-committal sound low in her throat.
"He was being mean, right?"
"You are fifteen, Chopper," Robin sighed, and his eyes widened at the uncharacteristic use of his name. "You wouldn't cope with... with our sudden loss quite the same way-"
"Are you saying I'm a child?" Chopper cried indignantly. He wasn't, he was a pirate, a member of the Strawhats who had had many dangerous adventures and had defeated countless enemies! He was a brave man - Luffy had said so!
Robin looked down at him, and there was something in her eyes that made Chopper jump up angrily, staring at her and feeling ridiculed and alone, abandoned by her, by Sanji, by everyone but most of all feeling betrayed by Luffy.
"I am not a child!"
Robin sat up straight in her chair in response to his accusative tone, taking deep, measured breaths before answering, angering Chopper even more. "You have come to me, or to other members of the crew nearly daily to cry, and that for the last couple of weeks. You expect us to comfort you, to make the pain of losing Luffy go away, but Chopper, what you seem to fail to realise – or just plain choose to ignore – is that we are grieving, too. You are not the only one in mourning!"
He stared at her as she talked, rage bubbling inside of him as he listened, her words hitting him hard. He focused on the indignation, the humiliation of being treated and talked to like a child to squelch the little voice in the back of his mind that whispered that she was right.
Filled with anger, a new emotion welled up inside of him, and for the first time since he had known Robin, the first time since Vivi and Alabasta, since Crocodile and Miss All Sunday, for the first time since Little Garden, he hated her.
"How's it going?"
The lieutenant stood at attention. "No change, sir!"
"Good," Jager said, stepping closer to the cage. "Don't let your guard down. This is a cursed woman..."
Jager looked down at the slumped woman. He took in her limp form, her scratched and bleeding body, her torn clothes and greasy hair. He stared at her and tried to pity her, to feel compassion for this once beautiful woman and regret the death that awaited her once they reached their destination.
But no. Not for her. Not for this demon.
"Be sure to check those seastone shackles. Make sure they're tight."
With her death, the cursed legacy of Ohara would finally come to an end.
Her heart raced in her chest as Robin stared at Chopper - at her friend-, and she instantly regretted her harsh words.
"Chopper, I'm sorry," she said, looking away from him. "I shouldn't have said those things." Something inside of her twisted at the apology, because as hurtful as it was she was right.
How often had she or one of the others been forced to push back their own grieving in order to console the little reindeer? Hadn't they all found a way to deal with their feelings of loss - Sanji through cooking, Zoro through training, herself by losing herself in the fantasy filled world of books -, everyone but Chopper? And weren't they all forced to-
"How dare you?"
Robin jerked her head up to meet Chopper's gaze at the hissed words, but what she saw there made her flinch back.
It was a look she knew well, had seen all her life ever since Ohara had been destroyed. But never before had her nakama looked at her like that, never with such hatred. Involuntarily she hugged herself, hunching her shoulders and curling into herself, trying to block the cold and the memories of those dark and lonely years.
"How dare you," Chopper repeated, the rage in his voice as plain as the hatred in his eyes, "how dare you talk to me like that when it's all YOUR FAULT!"
She froze, the screamed last word resounding in her mind, the implications clear. But underneath the cold and numbness a new feeling took root, an emotion she had never dared to acknowledge before she found her nakama.
White-hot it raced through her, chasing away the cold, and she repeated his words, calmly, measured. "My fault?"
"Yes!" Chopper spat, and a small part of her realized that he tried to hurt her because she hurt him. He was merely defending himself.
She knew all about defending oneself.
"You are a demon child, alright! Spandam was right! Wherever you go, death and destruction follow! Not even Luffy was safe from your curse! It's all your fault!"
Someone gasped in shock, but Robin was confident that it hadn't been her. The spreading blaze inside of her demanded that she strike back, to lash out at Chopper and make him regret his words.
But she didn't.
Instead she got up, turned around, and calmly walked away. Someone called after her (Nami? The voice was too high to be Zoro or Sanji, too desperate to be Franky and too understanding to be Usopp. And Brook was gone and Luffy dead), but she ignored them.
Running from a ship was hard to do, she knew from experience.
It had never stopped her.
"This is a time of celebration, Kohza, you can't expect the labourers to work!" Vivi laughed at her friend's proposal.
"In that case the fountain won't be finished by the end of the festivities," Kohza replied sourly as he followed her into the dining hall. They both greeted her father, already sitting at the breakfast table. The newspaper was discarded on the table.
"What won't be finished?" Cobra asked, smiling at Vivi as she seated herself next to him, nodding at Kohza who took the seat on his other side.
"The fountain," Vivi explained as she reached across the table. "Kohza wants to let the labourers continue their work during the first week of-" Kohza slammed his hand down on hers, startling her badly.
Her fingers were a hair's breadth away from the newspaper.
She looked away, her fingers curling into a fist beneath her friend's warm hand. "I just want to read the paper," she said, but her voice sounded unconvincing even to her own ears. She bit her lip.
"Vivi, look at me."
Reluctantly, Vivi raised her eyes to meet her father's concerned gaze, a knot forming in her stomach at how old he suddenly looked. Kohza coaxed her fist to loosen and threaded their fingers together.
"It's been months, Vivi. It might be time to accept-"
"No!", she cried, clenching Kohza's hand. "It's not..! You don't understand, I travelled with them! It's not possible...! It's just not possible," she whispered, the fight having left her as tears threatened to spill.
Luffy couldn't be dead.
"The bounty on his head has been annulled. The government seems sure that he is dead."
Vivi shook her head. "It's a trick," she argued weakly. It had to be. She stared at the newspaper. She would find it, she knew. Proof that what the government said was false, that they were mistaken. If she just kept looking...
"Vivi," her father sighed, "this can't go on. You are-" He broke off as the doors were suddenly thrown open. "Igaram, what...?"
Igaram panted heavily. "Forgive me, Your Majesty, but... Princess Vivi, you have to come!"
"What?" Vivi looked to her father for directions in confusion.
"Just... Please come with me!" Igaram said, grabbing her by her free hand and dragging her with him.
"Igaram, what are you doing? Have you lost your mind?"
"I apologise for my rude behaviour, but I had to fetch Princess Vivi as soon as I recognized him!"
"Recognize who? Igaram!" Her father waved away the guards that confusedly tried to join them in annoyance, grabbing Kohza's shoulder as he missed a step on the stairs. "Where are we going?"
"The gardens. I told him to wait there."
"Who is there? Igaram, you're hurting me!" Igaram loosened his grip in response and send her an apologetic look but didn't let go of her wrist.
"Someone who will put an end to your suffering!"
"An end to my...? Igaram, who is there?", she cried in confusion. Then a thought came to her, and her heart started beating faster with hope. "Igaram, is it... Is it Luffy?"
Her friend stopped abruptly, making her lose her footing. "No," he said, gazing at her with sympathy. "But close enough." He let go of her wrist and lead the last few steps to the gardens solemnly.
Vivi squinted against the glare of the morning sun, shielding her eyes with her hand to make out the form of the visitor. Her heart skipped a beat as he turned around. She would recognize that profile everywhere.
"Usopp!" she cried, running towards her friend. Usopp caught her in a hug, holding her tight and whispering her name. The tension in her shoulders loosened for the first time since she read the article claiming Luffy's death and she laughed with pure joy and relief. Usopp was here, which meant that the others were close and then she could see for herself that Luffy was alright.
Everything would be alright, now.
She held him at arm length to look him in the eye, both of them grinning madly. "When did you arrive? Why are you here? Where's Luffy? And where are the others? Are they close by? Will they come, too, or should we go to them? How's Luffy?" The words were tumbling out of her mouth in a rush, but she didn't care. She was too happy.
Usopp, however, stopped smiling, a haunted look appearing in his eyes. Vivi frowned at his expression.
"I need your help, Vivi."
She took a step back at his tone, the tension returning. She bumped into Kohza, who put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Of course, what do you need?"
"A ship. I need to get to Little Garden." He was first to look away.
"Little Garden? Why would you need to go there? Where's the rest of the crew? Usopp, where is Luffy?"
"Just shut up already!"
Usopp stopped in his recounting of the grand adventures of the Great Captain Usopp and his faithful nakama to stare at an enraged Nami.
"Shut up! I'm sick of your stupid stories! You're not some kind of great warrior! This isn't one of your stupid fairy tales, Luffy and Robin and Brook and, and Chopper, they're not waiting on some island until you swoop in and save them, they're gone!"
Usopp shook his head in denial, stumbling back as Nami continued to scream at him. What she said, it wasn't true. He was a warrior of the sea, and during his adventures he would reunite with his lost friends, with Robin and Brook and Chopper and-
"Stop living in your fantasy world already! This is the real world! You're nothing but a coward who hides behind his lies and fantasies!"
"Nami-swan, please, calm down! You are just upset-"
"Don't tell me to calm down! You know it's true! You think it too!"
No, he wasn't. It wasn't true. She was wrong. He'd show her.
"Well, yes, I mean, n-"
He'd show them all.
The smell of burning wood and paper met Nojiko as she made her way up the hill, the cracking logs guiding her in the otherwise silent night.
She stopped a few feet away from her mother's grave, a few feet from her hurting sister, where the heat of the fire was blocked by Nami's body. Nojiko hugged herself as the wind picked up for a moment, carrying the cold air of the ocean and the smell of the fire.
In front of her Nami neatly unfolded a piece of paper, carefully smoothing it out and caressing its edges.
The sound of ripping paper made her flinch, and Nojiko had to avert her eyes from her sister's back.
She felt helpless and cold, and for a moment anger burned in her stomach as she wished that Nami had never joined Strawhat Luffy.
Another gust of wind blew the rage away, gone as fast as it appeared. She was left feeling spent and helpless. Feelings she knew like the back of her hand.
"So she's at it again."
Nojiko started at the gruff voice, turning around to frown at Genzo.
"Ginji's going to stop selling her ink and paper. He's worried about her." He sighed. "We all are. This can't be healthy."
Her nails dug painfully into her skin. "She's grieving," Nojiko replied, dread and helplessness laying heavy in her stomach, making her sick.
"She needs time."
"It's been months since she's come home."
And all Nami had done in those months had been drawing maps. Lovingly, beautifully detailed maps that she would draw during the day, a sense of peace and serenity around her that frightened Nojiko, only to come here at night and burn them, scattering the ashes into the wind.
"This can't be healthy," Genzo said again, and Nojiko's fingernails left painful little impressions on her arms as she turned back to stare at her sister's huddled form.
You don't know what you're talking about, she thought spitefully, because he didn't.
He didn't see Nami's bright smile, didn't listen to her recounting of grand adventures, didn't hear her happy laughter – the sound of a quill scratching over parchment a constant background noise, the smell of ink never leaving the small cottage.
He didn't look into her dead eyes.
And Nojiko was scared, so scared. Because try as she might, she was helpless in the face of the compulsion of ink and paper, powerless against the allure of Bellemere's grave.
And in her worst nightmares she had come to accept that this hill had become her sister's grave as well.
Another crash, another yell and insults hurling through the air.
Alone in her workroom, surrounded by parchment old and new, Nami gripped her hair tightly, forehead resting in a disgusting puddle of tears and snot and ink.
"Stop it," she whispered, a sob half-swallowing the words. "Just stop it, please."
Voices yelling and the sound of hydraulics releasing, another crash, another bang, and with a too high-pitched laugh Nami wondered why Franky even bothered when it was only a matter of time until they started lashing out at each other again.
But wondering was dangerous, because it led to wondering about other things, such as:
Would it be different if the others hadn't left? Why did they go? Was it her fault?
("Usopp, please, I beg you come back! I didn't mean to, I never meant it, oh please! Usopp! It's all my fault! Oh god, please come back...!")
Wondering meant asking herself, Should she leave, too?
(Screaming outside, louder and more vicious than before, and not even the thick door kept out the hurtful slurs.)
Why should she stay?
The clash of their swords drowned in the roaring thunder, and even as Tashigi managed to push Rorona back she knew that she wouldn't win this fight.
Couldn't win, because the man facing her now truly was the Pirate Hunter, the fearsome demon that she had believed herself to chase all the way to the Grand Line.
Somewhere – in the back of her mind that wasn't busy dodging three swords at once, that wasn't frantically thinking of ways to stay alive, of how to win the upper hand in an already lost fight – she recognized the irony of wishing for the old Rorona Zoro to return. She had joined Smoker on his hunt for Strawhat Luffy with the sole purpose of hunting Rorona Zoro, believing him to be a ruthless criminal not worthy of the legendary swords he carried.
But now as she had managed to track him down, following the bloody trail of sick justice he left across the most lawless of islands to plague the Grand Line - a just dessert that left those convicted in a state of pain and humiliation that it would have been kinder had he just killed them - she finally understood that the man she had chased since Logue Town hadn't been a monster.
The man before her now, though; he was.
"Stop me," he had murmured when she had confronted him, and for that one moment he had been human again.
She wished she could hate him, that her righteous sense of justice and her love for the law would give her the fervour needed to win this battle, but the truth was she pitied him. Headquarters had celebrated the news of Strawhat Luffy's death and the execution of Nico Robin, and even though she couldn't find joy in their deaths Tashigi still felt relief and satisfaction that their era's were over.
But as she stared into Rorona's dead eyes she felt a pang of regret. She wished things had gone differently, that Strawhat hadn't died and that Rorona Zoro hadn't become the ruthless demon she had believed him to be.
Tashigi blocked his next attack, but the force of the blow sent her staggering backwards as he raised his other sword to strike again. She set to twist her body around, using her momentum to dodge the blow but her feet slipped on the rain soaked ground and she fell, and in a desperate attempt to keep Rorona away long enough to regain her footing she jerked her sword up.
And was met by a brief resistance.
Warmth engulfed her hands, ran down her arms.
She stared in horror, the sword in her suddenly lax hands dropping, the body slipping down the blade and hitting the ground with a sick splash.
"No," she fell to her knees beside him, "no no no no no no no no no."
The wound was close to the heart – not close enough to kill instantly, but. Too close. Impossibly close, and this couldn't be happening, he couldn't be lying here, bleeding, because the angle had been all wrong.
There had been no strength behind her strike, it would have been easily deflected and even if not, the angle was wrong, it would have never hit this close, he would have had to twist around and-
And he had.
He had turned.
Into the path of her sword.
She choked, bile burning her throat and mouth as she heaved, as she threw up, blood and rain pooling around them.
She stared at him, panting, gasping for breath. Stared into his eyes – not yet gone, but not quite there - stared and she could see it, see him turning, saw the sword - hersword – pierce his chest and her burning throat was nothing compared to the scorching heat behind her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he repeated, slowly, painfully, and she heard the blood flooding his lungs with every shallow pant. "Couldn't keep my promise. Failed you. Failed..." he frowned, and broke off. She just sat there, staring at him, trying to make sense of something, anything, but- "Couldn't fulfill your dream..."
He looked at her, but not at her, and his gaze was full of regret and it scared her enough to break through the numb chaos in her mind. Who are you looking at?, she wanted to ask, to yell, to scream and to cry, Look at me! but.
He wasn't looking anymore.
"I said no!"
"I. DON'T. CARE!"
"Come on, guys, don't fight-"
"Keep out of this, Franky!"
"We have to anchor at this island! We need to restock our food! Are you as dense as your crappy swords?"
"No! What part of that is too hard to understand, you stupid cook? That place is crawling with Marines, damn it!"
"Our food supplies are nearly gone! What part of that is too hard to understand?"
"I said no!"
"You're not the boss of me, marimo-head!"
"I'm the senior crew member!"
"Senior crew member? Don't make me laugh! WHAT CREW? There's no one here except the three of us!"
"Guys, let's talk about this-"
"If you're in the one in charge here, why did you let everyone go?"
"Shut up, you useless cook!"
"Why didn't you hold them back, huh? Why didn't you do anything? Why did you just stand there and watch as the crew fell apart? WHY DIDN'T YOU DO ANYTHING!"
It wasn't right, Terry thought for the umpteenth time. The crude cheers of the crowd drowned out his sigh. The kid should be out on the seas, chasing his dreams.
"Gyhahaha! That's it, Black Leg, show that arrogant tosser! Kill him, kill him! Gyahahaha!"
Terry still remembered the kid's former crew mates. They had been full of dreams when they had come to his pub, hadn't they? Looking for an island in the sky in a town that fully embraced the era of crushed dreams.
Though he supposed there was a certain symmetry to the whole tragedy. Years ago, Strawhat Luffy and his friends had been laughed at and beaten up for holding on to their dreams. Now, the Strawhat's former cook beat up anyone who dared to laugh at the dreams of others.
"I'm so'y... I won' do it again... Please..."
Still, it just wasn't right. The kid should be out there, sailing the seas, not being stuck in a town full of backstabbing scum.
"Gyahahaha, did ya see that? The blood's shootin' outta the captain's nose! Gyahahaha!"
"Oi, oi! What are you doing with all that stuff?"
"What does it look like? I'm leaving, Franky."
"Leaving? Come on, I know things aren't exactly super right now-"
"Super? Franky, everyone but us is gone. And now I'm going, too."
"You can't- Hey! You can't do that! You can't just leave!"
"Why the hell not? Let me go!"
"We're the Strawhat Pirates!"
"Really? Look around you, Franky. The Strawhat Pirates are finished."
Two years and four months after the death of Strawhat Luffy, on an island near the water capital Water 7 the body of the terrorist and confirmed member of the Strawhat Pirates Cyborg Franky was found.
Three days later, scavengers discovered the burnt remains of the pirate ship Thousand Sunny on the ground of the Grand Line.
Thus ended the era of the Strawhat Pirates.