As usual, the pirates had left without looking back. Their hearts and minds filled with the memories of their encounters on the Sky Islands, they sailed away.
As they has reached the cloud's end, the Merry fell into the air until a high whistling sound beckoned a large Octopus to catch them during their fall. Its tentacles wrapped around the little ship, the sky mollusk inflated itself. And as they watched the Cumulonimbus gradually disappearing in the whiteness of the sky, their slow course down toward the blue sea was accompanied by the smiles of Pagaya and Conis as well as with the magnificent golden sound of the bell of Shandia.
A deep sigh left Eli's mouth as she laid down on the wooden deck. The weather was fair, and as the warm rays of the sun caressed her skin, the girl felt with content that she was, at last, at home.
While her green eyes were lazily clinging on the azure blue scattered with white clouds, the chronicler listened absently to the begging of her crewmates. They were gathered around a big pile of shiny artifacts -their loot retrieved from the giant snake's stomach- chalices, jewelries, statuettes among other things were making a lovely shiny pile.
As Eli rolled her head to the side, she saw that Ace was peacefully sleeping not too far from her. He was leaning against the main mast, his bright hat partly covering his face. Narrowing her eyes, the girl tried to find out if he was really asleep. Too many times she had suspected the narcoleptic to fake his sleep. His intents were unknown and his means truly frustrating.
As her keen gaze trailed down his body, the girl felt her heartbeats increasing. Her temperature rose as her heart pumped hot blood throughout her body. Ace was wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Light yellow was the color of the fabric which was quietly fluttering on his skin. As she listened to those flutters, all the other sounds around Eli were gradually muffled. She could hear blood thudding in her ears, in her head, in her breasts, and lower, in her gut... in the hollowness he touched.
His hands. As she gazed at his large hands, Eli could almost feel them on her skin. It was tingling with excitation. Crackling; it wanted to be touched again.
His chest. She could feel hers throbbing as in her mind an exciting flickering of images played. When he had pushed himself inside of her, searing her desire with the exquisite invasion of his all inside of her-
"Ah !" The girl's face snapped to the other side, feeling it flushed and burning as she looked at Nami.
"Eli, your pearl..." The navigator said hesitantly.
"What ?" The girl lifted her head to glance at her pearl before letting it fall back on the deck, wincing as the little thud caused wave of pain to wash over inside of her head. At least it cleared from the though pertaining to what she has been fantasizing about. "The sun is warming it, that's why it glows."
"No..." The redhead got closer and crouched to her crewmates' side. "It's moving."
Moving...? With a furrowed brow, Eli rested her upper body on her elbows. Puzzled, she observed her pearl as she lifted her wrist to eye level. It was moving. Faintly, it was balancing, drawing an odd diagonal.
Further puzzled by the pearl's odd behavior, Eli shook her wrist. The brisk movement affected the pearl sway before it gradually balanced in the same direction.
"It acts like a pendulum," Robin said.
Surprised by the archaeologist's sudden appearance, Eli's gaze shifted from her pearl to the woman.
"It's a Firefly, yes ?" Robin asked, her eyes, focus on the shiny pendulum.
"Yes, it glows when warmed," Eli said.
"It's not the only thing it does. In the past Fireflies were used to find people," Robin explained. "But this kind of pearl is very rare, and as Vivre Cards were invented, their usage was forgotten."
"Vivre cards ?"
"Vivre card are pieces of paper linked to one person's life line. It can also show the direction to follow to find the person to whom it is linked to."
Thoughtfully, Eli observed the Firefly. It was the first time it had behaved of the sort. "It's pointing toward Zoro..."
"Uh..?" The swordsman looked at the pearl as well, one of his eyebrows going up.
"It is not actually meant to point at a person," Robin said as she walked to the pile of treasures salvaged from the snake's stomach. "It is linked to another pearl."
As the archaeologist got a box out of the pile and opened it, the pirates awed at the sight of another pearl. A black one.
"Robin is so smaaaart~" Sanji said, swooning at the woman.
"Why isn't it moving ?" Chopper asked.
Silently, Robin took the black pearl out of the box, revealing a thin silver chain. She held the pearl by its chain and closed her hand on it.
As she uncurled her gracious fingers from around it, the crew uttered a well synchronized 'oooh' while gazing at the pearl; it was shining bright red. Slowly, it swayed in the direction of Eli's green one.
"Why... why didn't my pearl started moving before ?" the chronicler asked, her green gaze lost in the crimson light of the pearl.
"I suppose that they aren't linked together. But it was still showing the way to the closest potential partner."
The pirates stared silently at the pearls as the two women gradually got closer. The swaying increased until they touched. Immobile... as if magnetized, they clung onto each other, red light mixing with green.
The archaeologist let go of the chain in Eli's hand and stood up. "Now they are," Robin said with a little smile on her lips.
Wordlessly, the green eyed girl gazed at the two balls of faint light swaying -now with more vigor- toward each other. Was her pearl waiting for a partner all this time ? Eli felt the corner of her lips curling up into a smile as she watched the two pearls.
Slightly dazed, she uttered a gasp as a hand grabbed the black pearl from her hold.
"It must be worth quite some money," Nami said thoughtfully.
At that, Eli felt her heart wrenching a little. Separating the two pearls, if childish, seemed rather unfair to her eyes. They had waited so long to meet and, after a short embrace, they were going to be separated.
"But maybe it could be somehow useful to us." Nami interrupted. "Zoro could use it when he's lost."
The green haired swordsman grumbled. "I don't get lost," he said. "I don't need your stupid pearl."
"If no one wants it, we'll sell it then."
"Nami," Ace called out from behind Eli, a smirk appearing on the redhead's face on the spot.
"Yes, Ace ?" Nami replied in a syrupy voice.
"Can I have that pearl ?"
"Oh..." The smirk she sported grew a little more devious as Nami stared at Ace. "Sure," she said.
A little chaos ensued. After this brief and surprising act of generosity, the greedy redhead was unwaveringly refusing the multiple and annoying demands of the rest of the pirates; they all wanted a share of the treasure.
A smile on his face, Ace heated up the dark pearl, making it glow brightly. It seemed that the hotter it was, stronger was the pearl's attraction for its pair.
"Eh, I'll always find you with that," Ace said.
"Sometimes you act just like a girl, Freckles." Eli stuck the tip of her tongue out as Ace looked at her questioningly.
A corner of his lips curled up while Ace leaned closer to Eli. His breath caressing her ear, the girl felt her heart beating. They weren't alone, they could be seen and he was aware of that... right ?
"At least one of us is..."
"... what ?"
Second day after our departure from Skypiea. The weather has been rather unstable and so was a part of the crew. Since our cook wasn't able to fill our food stocks, hunger prevails with the loud growling of Luffy's stomach.
The previous night, our captain tried to raid the fridge and thankfully, Sanji caught him on time. As a punishment, he locked him into a box... It took Luffy some time to lose his square shape.
Eli grabbed a lock of hair that had escaped her messy mane with a strong salty breeze. Absently, she put the strand behind her ear while her eyes glided upon the last lines of her logbook.
Lately the weather had been so cold and dark that, at the first glimpse of a clear, azure sky, the pirates rushed onto the ship's deck to enjoy the gentle warmth of the sun while they filled their lungs with fresh salty air.
The chronicler sighed as she let the tip of her pen tap on her page. Ever since the ship's doctor had prevented her to use her fruit's abilities, Eli had found it hard to write. Her brain was now back to its normal speed -meaning faster than anyone's- but her hands were restrained. As if she was chained within invisible kairoseki shackles, she was unable to use her full potential. It had been so many years during which her body had been the host of those devilish powers, and now, she had to ignore them. It was heavy and draining.
Eli's eyelids were heavy. Maybe she could sleep. It seemed that it was all she could do lately. Sleep and eat while waiting for Chopper to unlocked the chains so that she could be herself again.
"You're becoming lazy."
"Uh..?" Dazedly, Eli's green eyes trailed up to meet with the figure of a man swinging an incredible amount of weights attached to a long metal bar.
A vague grunt was Zoro's only reply as the girl set her questioning gaze on him.
"I'm not lazy..." Eli sighed again, frustration stirring inside of her as the swordsman's attack gripped her guts.
Zoro's breaths were loud and regular. They filled the girl's ears along with the sound of his barbell cutting through the air. Lazy ? She wasn't lazy. Eli had been stripped of all of her powers and now all she could do was wait for Chopper's approval to use them again. Find her true self again.
"What can I do ?" Annoyed, Eli briskly closed her book and stood up. "I can't use my powers anyway," she said as she turned around to leave.
"And that's it ?" Zoro put his barbell down and started stretching his arms, his back turned to Eli as she looked at him over her shoulder. "What is left once your powers are gone ? Nothing ?"
His tone of voice was tainted with disdain, more than usually, and his words... Was that true ? Eli had taken her powers for granted for so long. Instead of being a part of her, they defined her. She was the fastest being in the world, she was faster that anything, but was it all that she was ?
At that moment and for the first time, Eli felt hate against her fruit and against herself. Wordlessly, she clenched her fist on her log book. She was more than that, she had to be. Ace was strong before the devil's fire invaded his body, Sanji and Zoro were some of the most powerful fighters she had ever seen. Usopp didn't need any fruit to be such an amazing sharp shooter...
"Teach me," Eli found herself saying, surprised at her own demand.
"Mmh ?" Zoro looked over his shoulder, his questioning gaze meeting with sharp green eyes.
"Teach me how to be stronger Zoro," Eli said. "Please."
The green haired young man turned around completely and studied the girl's figure. He did not utter a word while his eyes glided over her skinny body. Eli could almost feel her muscles flinching under his gaze. He was judging her, of that she was sure.
After what seemed like a few long minutes, Zoro turned around, and picked up a small pair of barbells. Without a word, he handed them to Eli.
The girl tilted her head to the side questioningly. "What do you want me to do with those ?"
Zoro rolled his eyes a bit as he pushed the barbells a bit further in Eli's direction. Apparently, he wanted her to hold them.
With a sigh, Eli stretched out her arms and almost fell on the swordsman as he dropped the weights in her hands.
"The hell !" Eli winced as she tried to keep her body straight.
"You want to become stronger ?" Zoro asked coldly. "Then you have to make your body stronger."
It started like that. With a nod, Eli accepted the swordsman's training. With a simple nod, she agreed to his terms and methods. With a simple and stupid nod, the nightmare began...
Fifth day on the open sea. Today it snowed. Sadly, Zoro didn't allow me to skip the training and enjoy the white miracle. Only until Usopp and Luffy declared a snow war on us, though. Without speed, I am an easy target but it seems that my aim has improved. Overall, it was a good day and Chopper seemed happy.
A whine managed to escape the girl's mouth despite the profound state of weariness she was in. Vaguely she felt something on her arm and as her eyes lazily trailed to the side, Eli saw Chopper bandaging one of the multiple cuts scattered all over her body.
"Aren't you being a little too harsh Zoro ?" The little doctor asked.
"She'll survive," the swordsman said.
Really...? After four days of training, Eli could barely feel anything else other than pain stirring throughout her body. It was as if it was nothing more than a giant bruise.
Looking back, the weight lifting seemed almost easy. Now Zoro had started the real training: the sparring matches... A lot of them. A part of Eli's training, the hardest part actually, was to quiet the devil living inside of her. Every time the swordsman attempted to lay a blow on her, the devil awakened. Its power spread through her limbs, urging the girl to evade, as fast as she could.
But Eli wanted to control the devil inside of her. Call for him when she needed, she wanted to tame it.
"Turn around Eli."
With a long whine, Eli dragged her body around and lay down on the kitchen table's bench. As the wood came in contact with her back, the girl winced in pain.
As gently as possible, Chopper rubbed some lotion on the girl's aching ribs. In spite of the pain, in spite of the bruises, Eli was somehow, satisfied. After only four days of major beating up, she could already feel the improvements.
"You react to my attacks when you should predict them."
Zoro was harsh, he was direct, and he was right. He was the first person that seemed to see the qualities behind the fruit. Overall, he was the first that seemed to show interest in training the girl, and so, in spite of the pain and fatigue, of that she was grateful.
Once Chopper had finished patching up Eli, the diner was served. The whole crew filled their stomachs with delicious dishes while trying to protect their plates from their captain's greed.
"What kind of weather is that...?" Nami muttered as she looked through the window. "The snow has stopped already."
A concerned look on her face, she walked over to the lounge's door and stepped outside to gaze at the sky.
"What's wrong Nami ?" Ace asked.
"A storm is coming," she said. "Nothing serious but someone should guard the ship tonight."
"I'll do it," Ace offered.
The redhead nodded absently while gazing thoughtfully at the cloudy mass boiling in the sky. "Those clouds are strange..." she said quietly.
Once their hunger was satisfied, the pirates lazily occupied themselves waiting for sleep to fall upon them. Nami was working on her maps and, next to her, Robin was reading a really thick book. Ace had left for his watch duty and Zoro went to bed early. On the floor, Usopp was working on Nami's weapon, apparently annoyed at the ruckus Luffy and Chopper made as they played cards together. Sanji was washing the dishes, and since the cook refused her help, Eli decided to work a bit on her logbook before the details of the Straw Hats' adventures in the country in the sky further vanished from her mind.
As she wrote down the words describing Enel and Luffy's battle just like they had been told to her by Nami, Eli could feel energy going through her revitalized limbs again. Sanji's cook skills were truly amazing. It seemed that he always served the girl exactly what her body needed.
Chopper's medicinal skills were also praiseworthy. After less than an hour, the pain had reduced tremendously. As she stretched out her limbs with a long moan, Eli wondered if she should go to bed already. Obviously, Zoro's training was far from reaching its end and the girl would need all of the energy she could save to survive through the next day.
"I'm off to bed," Eli said as she closed her book.
The rest of the crew decided to call it a night as well, except for Robin who stayed behind and enjoyed a freshly made coffee that Sanji served her.
As they went out of the lounge room, Eli's eyes went in search for Ace; she wanted to see him. After all, she was his girlfriend and so, just like any girlfriend, the girl reckoned that it was normal for her to want to see him before going to bed.
It was so strange though. With every step she took in direction of the prow, Eli felt her heart pounding a bit faster. Not only did she want to see him, she also and above all, needed to see him. His figure appeared clearer as distance shortened, Ace was sitting on the inner railing, the cloak he was wearing covering his body from the cold; the girl rubbed her arms rapidly as a night breeze bit on her skin.
"Hey..." she said, a bit weaker than intended.
Turning his head around to look at her, a large smile brightened Ace's freckled face as he looked at Eli. "Twig !" he said as he jumped down from the railing to meet with the girl.
"I'm going to bed," Eli said. "Do you need something ?"
"Mhmh." Ace slowly shook his head.
He did though, or at least he wanted something. Gently, Ace wrapped his hands around Eli's cold arms and as he pulled her closer to him, the girl vaguely heard a 'you're cold' reaching her ears. His face was close to hers, the dark-eyed pirate glanced over to the deck before shifting his gaze back to that of his wordless lover.
The moment before his lips touched hers, Eli felt her excitement thundering inside of her. Was that the normal effect a kiss had ? And then, the warmth. It spread all over her, and inside. Did he feel that too ?
This was so new to her.
It wasn't the place nor the time to do what Ace obviously had in mind though, what his warmth awoke in Eli's too. A part of her wanted to fight, because they could be seen, because she was tired, but above all, because she had her pride. The hunt and fight, the game of seduction, it didn't stop once the two lovers found themselves becoming a couple. The fear of not being enough for him either. Eli wanted to be exciting, she wanted to be desired, and she definitely wanted their relationship to last.
"Not now," Eli said firmly as she turned around and crossed her arms over her thudding chest.
Weak was her grasp on her resolve and Ace's warm hands holding her small shoulders prevented her from walking away. Therefore she remained there, in his hands, while staring in the darkness until a flash of lightning struck the horizon, thunder roaring in her ears a second later.
Rain fell on the two lovers. In the dark night, in the middle of the ocean, they were drenched on the spot. Taken off guard, Eli threw her leg forward in an attempt to find shelter in the Merry, only to find herself held back by two strong arms.
"Eh..?" she uttered stupidly as she looked at Ace who, oddly, hadn't move.
The black haired pirate was smiling. He took his orange hat off his head and placed it on Eli's soaked hair. His other hand pulling her in his direction, the girl obediently complied and pressed her back on his warm chest. Who could resist such a delightful invitation ?
Water was crashing all around them and Ace drank to his heart's content as he sucked Eli's nape, right where her tattoo stood. From that precise spot, electrifying waves raced throughout her body, just like the thunder in the air that surrounded them. They beckoned little moans that she couldn't force down no matter how much she wanted to.
The air that was so cold a few seconds ago; it turned warm and then.. hot. Almost suffocating as the rain drops running on the flame user's skin turned into steam.
Eli's pants were hard as she felt the man behind her burning with passion; she was imprisoned in his searing desire. A power beyond her understanding; his touch was enough to throw her thousands of meters away, into the skies, within the boiling clouds. How…?
The two lovers were obviously too absorbed with each other to be prepared to what happened then, chuckle tinted above the crashing of water, and the steamy atmosphere turned cold. The childish laugh floated in the lovers ears, striking the two pirates with surprise on the spot.
They looked around with wide eyes, trying to make out a figure behind the curtain of rain falling all around them.
"Who's there ?" Eli yelled out before turning around to face Ace. "Was it Chopper ?"
"I'm not sure..."
"Usopp ? Luffy ?" Who else could utter such a childish chuckle ?
Like it came, the rain stopped, revealing a clear night sky. But in spite of the light that the moon cast gently on the little ship, the two pirates couldn't find the mischievous voyeur. Eli felt that she was being watched though and as she found her eyes staring at the ship's figure head, a strange idea made its way to her mind. What if...?
… Impossible. Eli shook her head, rain drops slipping from her hair as she did. A smile on her face, the pirate girl gazed at the sheep's head. It would be nice though...
to be continued
Betaed by charmedward.
I'm sorry it took me too long to update. I just don't find time nor energy anymore. I couldn't even reply to the reviews (except the ones that had questions). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter and that you still enjoy the whole story. If it weren't for you I'm not sure I would still try my best to find time to write.
Zoro training Eli ? Good for her. Our girl needs to improve obviously.
The last part is an -obvious- hint of Merry's soul's presence within on the ship. After that little event, our two lovers found it hard to enjoy heated moment on board :P Thank fully, they will soon reach an island.
And the next chapter will best the start of my first original Arc. I hope you will enjoy it and that it'll be fun for me to write.
See you -hopefully- soon :)