The relative calmness on the Going Merry was welcome after the recent chaos in Logue Town. Of course there were Luffy's crazy stunts and the usual insanity during dinner times but it was normal for the crew now. Right now it was unusually quiet. Luffy was sitting on his own "special seat" and stared intensely at a crumpled piece of paper on his hands.
"Hey Luffy, what are you so focused on?" asked Usopp and tried to catch a glimpse of what the captain was looking at. Luffy bounced up and smiled widely.
"Let's gather everyone up! I have an announcement to make!"
In few moments all of the nakama were on the deck. Luffy hopped on the rail and faced his curious audience with a determined look.
"Crew! We have sailed together trough many dangerous waters. We will face even more extreme situations when we reach the Grand Line. I know that even if people say that sea is impossible to conquer we will make it somehow! But when I enter the Grand Line, I don't want to have any regrets, so just in case..." He dug the same paper he had been studying before from his pocket and held it out for everyone to see.
"...we are following this map to the world's biggest ice cream factory!"
"Eeeeh!?" Nami's shriek rose above the others. "The world's biggest what?"
"Ice cream factory." Luffy grinned. "Isn't it--"
"--Awesome!" Usopp shouted and cheered. "Ice cream! Yah~hoo!"
"What are you a bunch of kids...?" Sanji muttered but couldn't help but smirk as their captain and sniper started to dance and sang something about ice cream.
"Give me that map!" Nami snatched the paper from Luffy and inspected it.
"Luffy! What the hell! Where did you get this thing!" She yelled and smacked the strawhat on the head and shoved the 'map' which was more like a 5-year-old's drawing in his face.
"Some in kid in Logue Town told me about the place and he drew me a map so I could get there."
Nami sighed and looked at the paper. Apparently their would be destination was shaped like a giant ice cream sundae and the island was shaped like a famous talk show host's hair.
"Luffy. This is probably just a thing made up by that kid."
"Is the place called Cone-Zone?" asked Sanji. Nami took another look at the nearly un-intelligible scribbles.
"Yeah... I think that's what's written here, but it also looks like 'Coca-Cola'."
"It exists. Wait a moment I wanna show you something." The cook disappear inside for a moment and came back carrying a folder. He opened it and flipped through the papers inside.
"It should be somewhere here I have all kinds of ads and pamphlets in this thing... Ah, there." He picked up a sheet.
"Cone-Zone - The world's largest ice cream producer with the most diverse collection of flavours and best quality." he read aloud and then passed the sheet on. It was a simple poster with some info about the company and an announcement at the bottom reminding people about a contest.
"What is this contest stuff? Ice cream eating contest?" asked Luffy hopefully. Sanji grinned and picked a new cigarette and lighted it.
"Nah, a decoration contest held every year. The one who makes the most impressive looking ice cream sundae wins - of course the taste counts too - but it's all about creativity." he explained. "It's going to be held again in few days I think... The prize is one and a half million beli."
"One and a half million beli!?" Nami's jaw dropped. "Sanji! You're entering! I'll go look for the coordinates!" Nami sprinted to go through her maps managing to step on a sleeping swordsman. Zoro yelped and shouted curses after the girl before looking weirdly at Sanji who was prancing through a deck in an euphoric state swearing that he would make his Nami-swan the most beautiful sundae ever seen.
"Yay! We're going to Ice cream-Zone!" Laughed Luffy.
"What the hell is going on here..." Zoro mumbled becoming even more upset about being woken up.
"You were asleep the whole time? If someone's making an announcement you should listen moss-head!"
"What announcement are you talking about stupid cook?"
"Oh, yeah, we were so busy to gather people that we didn't realize we should wake him up when we saw he was already here." Usopp said
"You dumbasses!" The cook barked and then skipped to the galley wondering aloud what kind of decorations Nami would prefer.
Zoro scratched his head and yawned. "So, what's up?"
"Sanji is going to decorate ice cream." Luffy answered.
"In the ice cream place. We're going there now."
"He's going to get lotsa beli."
"'Cause he's gonna win the contest."
"The ice cream contest."
"The ice cream eating contest?"
"Nope, no eating. Just making it pretty."
"I don't get it either but there has to be some ice cream we can eat too so it's all good!"
Zoro nodded, satisfied with the explanation. He guessed that he could do some training now that he was awake. His stomach growled miserably.
'On second thought, maybe after dinner...'
Luffy's stomach wailed too.
"Oh man I'm so hungryyy... Oi Sanji! Food!" he shouted and ran the kitchen - only to get a painful kick in his guts which sent him flying.
"Dinner's going to be ready soon enough! Now stay the hell out until that!"
"I'm going to starve to death!" Luffy whined and stood up.
"You're not going to die." Zoro stated "He's going to be ready in less than thirty minutes. Just find something to do in the meanwhile."
Luffy sighed mournfully and held his stomach.
"You're impossible." The swordsman grinned and sat down enjoying the warmth and the sun. He began to take his shirt off but halted when the scar on his chest sparked up a memory of it's origin.
'This is ridiculous, you're afraid to take your shirt off because of one bloody scar.' Zoro thought with annoyance. It was true - he was afraid, ashamed even. The scar was a reminder of his helplessness back then. He had felt this kind of frustration in his duels with Kuina. Well, you could only go up when you hit the bottom. He would make Kuina's dream come true.
Kuina's dream...? He had become obsessed in chasing it. Yes it was his dream too but somewhere along the way it had become a grave quest for some kind of retribution. He found himself still to be very angry sometimes. It had been an accident - there was none he could place blame on.
"Zoroo~ooo! Food!" Without a warning Luffy smashed into him and started dragging him into the kitchen.
"Oi, oi! Understood already! Let go of me Luffy!"
"You're too slow!"
A while later Zoro found himself to be in need of a clean shirt. The dinner had turned into a food fight after Luffy had tried to steal Nami's portion of the meat. Zoro's shirt was now stained with gravy. Delicious gravy if he might add. The dart-brow could cook even if he was an idiot. He headed to the men's quarters, pulled his white shirt off and grabbed a black T-shirt. He couldn't help but to let his gaze fall on his chest.
He stood still for a moment and the carefully traced his fingers along the scar's line. He lifted his head and stared absently at the wall, lost in thought. He had marked him. A punk who came out of nowhere and got defeated by a couple of moves by his hands. Hawk-Eyes... When would he be ready to challenge that man? To surpass him and his sword... what will it take?
Two days passed by. The morning of the current date promised a weather as clear and warm as the previous ones. Nami was hopeful that they would reach Cone-Zone by the evening. They agreed that they would drop anchor near the island and go ashore the next morning. Luffy was restless and kept asking if they were there yet the whole day, which agitated Nami, and Nami's agitation agitated Sanji and Sanji's agitation, well, a lot of people got hurt.
Zoro had escaped to the crow's-nest and relished the peaceful atmosphere above the chaotic deck. He wanted to fall asleep but he knew the others would kill him if he did that and missed their destination. Finally after couple of hours he could see a distant dot in the horizon.
"Hey! I think I see it!" he yelled.
"Really?" Luffy stretched his arms and grabbed the rail of the crow's-nest and launched himself up. "I see it too! Wohoo! We're almost there!"
"Well it seems like the island itself is normal but the huge factory is shaped like an ice cream!" Nami said, looking through a spyglass.
"Let me see!" Luffy jumped up and down excitedly as Nami passed him the spyglass.
"Whoa! It looks so cool! I can't wait to get there!"
"Thank goodness we made it on time, the competition starts tomorrow." the navigator said.
"Can I go take a nap now?" Zoro piped in from above.
"Nap! I wanna take one too! But I'm too excited!" Luffy laughed.
"I can see that..." Zoro said as he returned to the deck. The swordsman was efficient in putting his plan of napping to practice. He quickly found a suitable spot on the deck and crossing his arms behind his head snoozed off like he couldn't care less about the world.
He might have seemed like he had nothing on his mind but Sanji had slight suspicions about that. Zoro wasn't the type to stare gloomily at a wall with a mournful look in his eyes. Yet the cook had been a witness to the very scene he had seen a couple of days ago in the men's quarters. It was quite scary in fact. He suspected it had something to do with how easily Hawk-Eyes had beaten him. It was weird seeing Zoro acting so very... not like Zoro, but Marimo's business was Marimo's business and he didn't want to get sliced and diced for being too curious. Not like the moss-head could beat him. He would totally kick the swordsman's ass. The blond just watched from afar as the green haired man laid against the railing and rested his hand on his chest.
"I'm here. Mind telling me what your 'emergency' is?" Amber eyes stared down at the red head seated on one of the tables in a surprisingly comfy inn considering his position.
"Yo! Hawk-Eyes, grab a spoon from somewhere and dig in!" Shanks grinned and motioned at the rather large bowl of ice cream before him.
"Really, saying no to ice cream? What kind of heartless bastard are you?"
"You know exactly what kind. Did you actually have information to share or did you just invite me over for ice cream?"
"...Oh Hell No."