CHAPTER ONE

A Lunch With Destiny

The Grand Line, the ocean of dreams, a place where anything can happen. Where one can encounter things thought to only exist in fairy tales, such as a man living inside a giant whale, or an island where dinosaurs and giants roam, or an island up in the clouds. Truly the Grand Line is a place that shocks and amazes all who behold it, yet it is a place of great peril as well as awe. Known also as the pirate graveyard, the Grand Line isn't a place for those without the strength or will to survive. In all the years it has been known, only one crew, one man, ever conquered this great ocean; the Pirate King Gold Roger. For years after his death many tried and failed to follow the path he laid out, but as the era reached it's peek, many gave the idea up as another fairy tale. Fantasy or not, right or wrong, there is still one crew among the sea of pirates that dares to chase this dream. One man with the will to become the next Pirate King...

***

It's another randomly beautiful day out on the ocean of dreams. Random as the weather can go from sunny to stormy without warning, that's the kind of place the Grand Line is.

The Going Merry sails along smoothly towards the next island the Log Pose points to, thanks to its ever vigilant keeper, Nami. She sits out on the main deck in a fold-out chair, reading the newspaper, but is ever watchful of the direction of the Log Pose. Nami is even more watchful of the treacherous weather, a talent that has saved this ship many times before. Luffy, the unassuming captain, sits dangerously on the port side railing, fishing (dangerous for him since as a Devil Fruit User he can't swim). He has an ignorantly blissful grin on his face, an expression no one would expect to find on the face of a man worth 100,000,000 Beri. Such things don't ever cross his mind though, food on the other hand crosses his mind every 5 minutes or so.

"SANJI!" Luffy groans, "I'm hungry! Isn't lunch ready yet?!"

Luffy pouts, his lips stuck out like a goldfish, ever waiting for his next oversized meal. The never ending chore of feeding this bottomless pit of a captain falls on Sanji, top flight sea chief of the Straw-hat Pirates. He bites down on his cigarette, which he shouldn't smoking while cooking anyway, and pops his head out the main cabin door.

"Damn it Luffy!" Sanji yells back, "Can't you at least wait for the food to be cooked?!"

"But I'm hungry..." Luffy retorts.

"You're always hungry, so you should be used to it by now!" Sanji pulls his cigarette out and blows a line of smoke, "Besides I have to take extra special care of the delectables I make for Nami-san and Robin-chan."

Sanji's annoyance magically vanishes at the thought of the two lovely ladies that grace their vessel; the young, cute, fiery, self assured, modern girl, Nami, and the elegant, graceful, mature beauty, Robin. The thought of making either of them grateful to him fills him with a burning drive to do anything, and endure any hardship. Robin, who's on the upper deck writing in her journal, smiles politely and commends her would be suitor for his culinary efforts.

"How very thoughtful of you Mr. Cook." she says softly.

Sanji's one exposed eye turns into a heart and he turns all his attention to Robin.

"Of course," he replies, "anything for you Robin-chwan!"

Zoro, who's sitting on the main deck, back to the wall, is ever in the process of of training. He's taking it light today, only training with his 100lb (each) dumbbells. Zoro's opinion on Sanji's priorities is less than great. Anyone can see Nami has him wrapped around her finger, and Robin is just being polite. Zoro finds no use in wasting energy on such pointless pursuits and feels the need to enlighten Sanji from time to time.

"Idiot." Zoro says plainly.

Sanji snaps back without skipping a comedic beat, "Shut up Moss Head, no one asked you!"

The two begin their daily routine of petty arguing. Nami turns her attention away from them and towards Usopp, who is on the front deck tinkering.

"What are you doing over there Usopp?" Nami asks, "You've been pretty distracted ever since we got back from sky island."

Usopp, a self made amateur inventor, is always looking for ways to improve his arsenal. Usopp turns to Nami and holds up one of the shells he was working on.

"I got a lot of dials while we in Skypiea, so I'm trying to incorporate them into a new slingshot." Usopp explains, "Once I'm done I plan to do the same to your Clima-tact."

Nami nods in approval, but takes a stern tone, "Well just make sure you leave out the party favors this time, alright?"

Nami, speaking of course of the first time she used the Clima-tact, and half it's attacks ended up being party tricks. Usopp gulps, remembering the beating Nami gave him after the civil war in Alabasta was over.

"I already told you I sorry..." he defends.

Chopper, the tiny reindeer-human (or human-reindeer), is sitting next to Luffy, fishing with him. He turns back to look at Nami and Usopp.

"Nami is scary some times." Chopper says quietly.

He thinks back to having had healed more injuries caused by Nami's scolding than by actual enemies (though Chopper may be exaggerating). Just then Chopper gets a tug on his line.

"Ah!" Chopper squeaks, "I got something!"

He tries reeling it in, but it almost feels like it's stuck. He pulls in hard, and it fights even harder. Luffy steps in to help Chopper. They both pull together and manage to pull the whopper up, but are surprised by their "catch". They find an elderly man, hanging from the rear of his clothes by the hook, holding a medium sized trout. The old man offers it out to them and smiles awkwardly.

"Um, thanks?" Chopper replies.

***

"Shishishi!" Luffy laughs, his mouth full of fresh cooked ramen. "So you were fishing too and caught the fish that was already on Chopper's line, and got tangled up in it? You're pretty stupid Gramps."

Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Chopper and Robin find them selves sitting on a bench that extends outside the old man's ship, which is now tethered to the Going Merry. The ship seems to be a kind of floating ramen kiosk.

The old man feverishly makes fresh noodles and boils them in his special broths, chopping up different meats and vegetables to add to kind. The old man looks to be about in his mid 60's, he has long gray hair, the top covered by a fez-like hat, a long gray beard, but no mustache, and simple kind eyes that make him seem younger than he is.

He's dressed in a fine looking yellow robe, with a light blue robe underneath, and it's all tied off with a white sash. Nami swallows what she was chewing to ask the old man a question, "So, you run a small ramen stand in the middle of the Grand Line? That seems a bit strange."

The old man laughs politely as fills up another bowl for Luffy.

"You would be surprised how well I do out here young lady." He replies, "This being the great pirate era, I get lots of travelers, both pirates and marines. Just so long as no one tries to rob me, it's perfectly safe."

He laughs at his own joke. Nami makes a half smile, half "yeah right" expression. Luffy finishes yet another (now up to ten) bowl and holds it out.

"More please." he says while still chewing the previous noodles.

The old man manages to have another ready for him and hands it over. Zoro, having already eaten a few bowls him self, drinks some sake out of the bottle. Robin and Nami are still on their first bowls, eating in a much less outrageous manner. Usopp has his face stuffed with ramen, pork and egg, all while trying to commend the chief.

Chopper eats in his human form since it's easier to hold chop sticks that way. Sanji, who finally finished the special garnishing for the ladies special lunches, comes out of the cabin.

"Well my sweets," Sanji declares in full love cook mode, "your extra special lunch is ready to be enjo..."

Sanji stops short when he notices no one is on deck.

Luffy calls out to Sanji from below, "Sanji!"

Sanji looks down over the port side and sees everyone already eating after he spent all that time cooking.

"What the hell is this!?" Sanji asks, "I just finished the lunch YOU asked for and now I find I find you guys eating out!?"

Sanji holds the two special dishes for Nami and Robin in his two hands.

"What am I supposed to do with all this food now?"

Luffy stretches up an arm and snatches Nami's special lunch.

"Hey damn it!" Sanji snaps at Luffy.

Luffy stuffs it into his mouth, "What? Can't waste food..."

"That was for Nami-san you rubber bastard!"

Sanji turns to Robin, who smiles politely, "I'm sorry Mr. Cook, but it would rude to refuse our guest. You can just wrap mine up and I'll eat it later..."

Later won't happen as Luffy steals that food while Sanji's distracted. Luffy gives Robin a thumbs up for distracting Sanji and she laughs quietly.

Sanji yells at Luffy again, "Knock that off damn it!"

He gives up and comes down, and the old man hands him a bowl. Sanji looks for an ashtray, but finds none. The old man explains, "This is a place of eating young man, no smoking here. Don't tell me you smoke while you cook?"

Sanji grimaces, if not entirely for the fact that the old man was right. He takes very specific notice of the ramen, studying the flavor of the broth and the texture of the noodles.

"This soup is amazing old man." Sanji admits, "How do you make this broth? What kind of spices do you use?"

The old man smiles confidently, "Sorry, but I can't just go handing over my secrets to every customer that asks you know."

Nami looks around and notices there aren't any islands within sight, but the old man's ship is too low for long distance travel.

"Hey, Mister," Nami asks, "How can you travel out so far into the sea with such a low vessel?"

The old man smiles at her knowledge of seamanship, "You noticed that did you? Well you see, the boat is only this low when customers are on board, when that happens the lower deck takes on a controlled amount of water. When I want the ship to rise, I use a special pump that's built in that deck to drain it."

Nami is impressed, "Wow, that's pretty ingenious Mister. Did they make this boat on your home island?"

"Yes, it was custom built for my shop back on my home island of Huang-long." The old man explains.

Luffy blows out a burp of satisfaction and turns his interest to the conversation.

"So Gramps, is this Long place interesting?" Luffy asks.

"Why yes, it's really quite a remarkable place. It's shaped like a large octagon, and surrounded by a giant stone wall, which has protected the island from all invaders for as long as the island has existed."

Luffy's eyes sparkle with the spirit of adventure, "Awesome!" Luffy exclaims, "I smell adventure."

Nami sighs, knowing Luffy is now dead set on going.

"Would you like to go there young man?" the old man asks.

Nami steps in to set Luffy straight, "That's great and all, but unless our Log Pose is pointing to it we won't be able to find it. Even if you gave us an Eternal Pose it would mess up the record of our Pose, so it's really up to luck if we can go there."

"Not quite young lady." the old man explains, "the island has no magnetic field of it's own so it won't effect your Pose. You see the island is artificial."

"What?" Nami inquires, as the rest of the crew takes notice, "How could someone MAKE an island?"

"The island was made by the Divine Dragon God, Huang-long, for whom the island is named." He continues, "Huang-long is the guardian deity of the island, and protects it from harm. The great wall was erected so the Divine Dragon wouldn't be burdened by constant threats from the outside."

Luffy gets even more excited, now shaking his knees up and down. The old man continues, "But while the wall protects the island it has also closed it off from the outside world. It has remained frozen in time, unaffected by the concerns of others."

This statement peeks Robin's interest, "Are you saying that the island has never had contact with the World Government?" Robin asks.

"That is correct young lady."

Robin thinks out loud, "...then perhaps they could still have a ponyglyph there, or even still actively know about what happened in the Blank Century..."

"I don't know anything about Pony-Gliffs," The old man adds, "but there is plenty of untold history on the island, as no one has ever entered the island to be told about it..." He pauses to correct him self, "Actually, that's not true. There was someone who breached the wall and entered the island. It was about 20 years or so ago. A pirate, a brash man with a fiery will and nerves of steel. I believe his name was...Roger."

The whole crew has a look of shock on their faces.

Usopp manages to ask what everyone is thinking, "You mean Gold Roger, the Pirate King?"

The old man nods, "Yes, I think that was his name. He was a funny one that man, as free spirited as he was powerful. He stirred things up quite a bit." He laughs to him self.

Luffy can no longer take it; he's now determined to go to this island.

"An amazing mystery island made by a dragon that no one but the Pirate King has ever been to?" Luffy says feverishly, "Alright, it's decided, we're going to Dragon Island!"

Nami rests her head on her hand, knowing she was right. The old man is pleased by Luffy's thirst for life. He digs into on old chest near the steering wheel and pulls out a strange octagon shaped bowl. The bowl is filled with unrecognizable writing and has a ying-yang symbol in the center. He fills the bowl with water from a bottle he also removed from the chest.

"This a Divining Pose," he explains, "It's how those of us who leave the island find our way back."

Nami looks at it, but it just seems to be a bowl of water. The old man takes out a cherry blossom peddle and places it on top of the water. The peddle starts to change direction on its own, positioning the tip of the blossom in a specific direction. Nami isn't convinced.

"It's just a peddle floating in a bowl of water." She adds, "How can this lead us anywhere?"

The old man moves the peddle with his finger, but it returns to its original position on it's own. "This will always point to Huáng-lóng, no matter where you are in the world." he explains, "It is a special divining tool that seeks out the power of the Divine Dragon. Follow it and it will surely take you to my home island."

Sanji looks up at the old man, "How will YOU get home old man?" Sanji asks.

"Don't worry, I have a few spares, they are easier to make than a Log Pose..."

Luffy takes the bowl and smiles, "Thanks Gramps." Luffy says, "Alright, our next stop is Dragon Island!"

***