The Crimson Palace
Fine Dining, Exposition, and the Real World Visitor
I look pretty snazzy in a suit.
The night we were scheduled at the Crimson Palace had arrived.
Everyone was getting dressed in their finest outfits…well, the ones that Hijako rented out to us.
You have to look your best he said. I won't let my fine establishment be tainted by jean short wearing slumps.
Hah. He insulted Luffy's style.
I was in a large black suit; Italian I think. With a crisp blue shirt and a darker blue tie.
Now if only we could fix that whole…face problem.
OW! He yelped.
That's right. I can hit you in my head now. So watch it wise guy.
…how the hell is that even possible? He whined.
My hair slicked back, my face seemed to wash itself and my tie tightened up nicely.
Thanks. Sorry about hitting you.
Oh nono! I think it's rather an accomplishment you broke the laws of reality! He said eagerly.
Everyone was waiting on the deck.
Luffy was in a white dress shirt that wasn't buttoned completely and black slacks.
Zoro was in a respectable dark green dress shirt with the arms rolled up and black pants.
Usopp was in a tuxedo…looked downright stupid to me.
Sanji wore one of his many pinstriped suits, with the yellow shirt and tie.
They were even able to find a child's suit for Chopper, who still wore his pink fluffy hat.
And then…the ladies.
Robin was nice; purple dress with one strap on the side.
But Nami…oh Nami Nami Nami she was a knockout in that strapless white dress.
"AAAALRIGHT! Let's go get my FOOOOD!" Luffy cheered.
"It's not just for you ya greedy pig!" Usopp shouted at him.
Sanji snickered at me. "Well Screaver. Maybe if you wore nice clothes more often, you wouldn't be so ugly."
I smirked back at him. "And maybe if you didn't wear suits everyday like they were dollar store shirts, people would actually give a damn about you."
"Cut it you two." Nami ordered. "I'm not having a single thing go wrong tonight. This is going to be…"
"…reeeeal high class treatment."
Zoro sighed. "Figures. Being given the best treatment royalty can give you still isn't enough for you."
Chopper was clacking his little shoes together in anticipation. "I bet it's going to be…amazing."
"It certainly will be." Robin said cheerfully.
"Well?" Luffy said. "What are we waiting for? Let's GOOOO!"
The place seemed bigger since the last time I was there.
Mostly because I was going INTO the building.
The flower gardens that grew on each side of the main entrance were astounding; a rainbow of colors and a noseful of smells.
The moon lit sky made the building seem to glow silver, with lamps lighting the sides of the walls.
The main entrance was guarded by four guys in black suits.
One of them looked at me and smirked. "Well, here you are again."
It had to be the guy I met before.
I smiled. "Couldn't keep me out for long. We've got reservations."
"It's alright men." A voice called out behind them.
The announcer guy, Barnsworth I think, walked up to them and waved them off.
"Well, here you are." He said, giving a humble bow.
He waved his hand inward. "Please, follow me."
"Yahooo! Bring on the MEAT!" Luffy cheered.
"And the booze!" Zoro said.
"And THE LADIES!" Sanji cheered even louder.
I hope that all those things actually exist in this place. Or I'm kinda screwed.
We slowly filled in, Nami being second to last. I brought up the rear.
The walls were shimmering with red and silver. Oil paintings of people framed in fancy frames lined the walls. There was some very nice furniture scattered about.
He waved his hand into a large glass elevator, and we all walked in.
It was big enough that all eight of us could fit in and have plenty of room.
Luffy and Usopp were blown away from the sheer beauty of this place.
"WHOA! What is this thing?" He said, pointing to the elevator.
"This is an elevator…" Barnsworth said. "It can carry people up and down from level to level."
"I've never used one before." Robin said. "Only the very rich are supposed to be able to afford one."
"Well, we never brag." Barnsworth chuckled.
I really don't think that elevators exist in this world.
Big deal. Michael sighed. Too bad I can't be with you guys.
Oh whatever. Once we get a table or something just hop out and blend in. They won't notice.
The elevator smoothly began to descend.
From the glass wall, the main dining room began to show.
It was AMAZING!
It was a humongous room with several circles of glass that allowed light from above to shine in. Red glowing lamps lined the walls. There had to be at least fifty tables in the whole area: center tables, booths, and large group tables.
The floor must have been carpet, but it shined like the polished white walls. There was a fountain in the corner, a BIG fountain. There was a whole section of the floor that seemed more polished where folks could dance. The whole left wall was a HUGE long bar that had like a dozen bartenders working there.
Waiters and waitresses were delivering humongous plates of food to tables. And as we descended I could see there were more chicks than guys. All wearing dressy but still kinda skimpy dresses.
And at the back wall stretching out to the center was a white wood, round and heavily lighted center stage. A whole jazz band of pianists, basses, a whole brass section of horns, and singers were performing loud and groovy jazz. All of them wore black suits with white shirts and black hats.
Dozens of rich folk were eating and drinking and dancing.
Everyone's eyes were lit up.
"Fooooood. So much FOOOOOD!" Luffy moaned.
"Look at the size of that bar!" Zoro gasped.
"LOOK AT THE BEAUTIFUL WAITRESSES!" Sanji cheered.
"This place has everything!" Usopp exclaimed.
"The architecture is astounding." Robin said in awe.
"It's so sparkly and pretty!" Chopper said giddily.
"It's perfect!" Nami decided.
I was going to say something like eh…I've seen better.
"HOLY FUCKIN SHIT!"
That's more like it.
The elevator reached the bottom floor and opened up.
"Now," Barnsworth said, "let me take you to your table."
He guided us to one of the large tables put directly near the stage.
The musicians spotted us, smiled, and picked up the pace on their jazz.
"If any of you need a waiter, just ask. You are free to use the dance floor, be by the fountain, take up residence at the bar, or anything else you desire. Please refrain from bothering other people eating, or the musicians playing, or the staff, or being violent in any way. Thank you, and get comfy. I think Madeline Clearsky is about to go on in about an hour.
About three of our crew gasped at that name, not including me.
"MmmmmammamaMADELINE CLEARSKY?" Sanji shrieked.
"Clearsky? Are you kidding me? REALLY?" Usopp said, equally as freaked.
"OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!" Nami started yelling.
I was confused.
"Who's Madeline Clearsky?"
Everyone looked at me funny.
"Screaver, you're a musician. I at least thought you would know who Madeline Clearsky is." Zoro said in surprise.
"So what? She's a musician or something?"
"Not just SOME MUSICIAN!" Usopp said. "She's perhaps the greatest musician on the Grand Line, perhaps the entire world!"
"And she's the third most beautiful woman in the Grand Line! She almost beat out Pirate Warlord Handcock for her beauty!"
"Wow!" I said. "She sounds awesome."
Hot, sexy AND a musician? My kind of girl.
Well, the old me would be all on that.
No, I'm here to party. It's not my place to dwell.
"Well, she'll be playing in about an hour. Make yourselves comfortable. If you need anything else, please let me know." Barnsworth said.
He bowed, and walked off to the elevator.
"I'm going to the bar." Zoro said, and made a beeline for the bar.
"WAITER! Bring me meat!" Luffy shouted, grabbing a knife and fork.
"Yeah, food!" Usopp and Chopper said in agreement.
"I'm going to have a look around." Robin said, and walked off.
Sanji had zoomed in on a waitress with blond hair and a lot of make-up on.
"WAIT FOR ME BEAUTIFUL! I need to ask you a favor!"
He zipped off too.
Two waiters had already made their way to us and were writing down their orders.
"You going to eat Screaver?" Nami asked, taking a seat.
"I'm going the bar first. Be back later." I said.
I sat at the bar, in a very cushy bar stool.
I looked at all the drinks they had along the wall.
I tapped the table to get the bartender's attention.
"Scotch and soda."
Not that I had any knowledge about drinks, but that was one of the ones my mom liked.
He nodded and started to fix my drink.
"Never took you as a scotch man."
Michael was sitting next to me, in his typical gray suit and fedora. He still wore the shades indoors.
"Well, here you are."
He nodded. "Bartender. Bring me a glass of your cheapest wine."
The guy slid my drink to me, and then gave Michael a funny look.
Michael just nodded and the dude went off to get a bottle.
"Any drink you can have, and you chose crappy wine?"
He sighed. "It makes me happy."
The man gave him a glass and poured the red drink.
"Any sight of our special guest?" I asked.
He took the glass and swirled it around. "He's somewhere behind that stage. My guess he's one of the musicians."
I chuckled. "Maybe it's that what's her face. Clearday or something?"
"The woman? Well, a person from your world being the top musician and 3rd hottest chick in the sea is quite an accomplishment."
"Yup." I said, spinning around and resting my back on the counter behind me. "We earthlings know how to do it."
I grabbed my drink and held it out to Michael.
"To what?" He asked.
I sighed. "To a well deserved vacation."
He chuckled. "To good friends."
I laughed. "To wacky antics and crazy crewmates."
He laughed, but then got serious. "To the One Piece."
I nodded. "To One Piece."
I downed the drink.
"GUUUUHOOOAH!" I gagged.
I swallowed it down alright, but it was pretty hard.
Michael sipped his wine glass and laughed. "Scotch is pretty hard…for women at least."
I grumbled at him.
Someone was making noises at the end of the bar.
Zoro was knocking back mugs like it was nothing.
"Need another!" He would say, as the bartender keep refilling his mug.
"Damn." Michael said. "This place really is crazy." He said.
I put my glass down and got up.
"I'm gonna get something to eat. You gonna be alright?"
He waved me off. "I'm fine. I'll keep it quiet. Maybe chat up a few ladies, give'em the whole silent mysterious type act. But I'll talk to you when I spot the person."
I nodded and went back to the table.
Luffy and the others had already ordered enough food to feed a small village, so I picked up what I wanted and dug in.
Ohohoho man, this stuff was to die for!
Shimmering ribs, stuffed crab claws, heavy Ceaser salad, massive baked potatoes, and tons of other stuff I couldn't begin to describe.
The primest of prime meats, the freshest of fresh greens, the best quality money can buy.
And it was...all...mine.
I was about halfway done before Nami tapped me on the shoulder.
"Hey, wipe your face."
I grunted, and grabbed a napkin. "What's wrong?"
She tilted her head towards the dance floor. "Wanna dance?"
I stood up straight, wipping my face spotless.
I wasn't much of a dancer to begin with.
But when I was with Nami…I still wasn't that good.
But honestly, neither did she really.
The music was in full swing. There were people doing something like swing dancing and some like the flail your arms dancing.
I mimicked what others were doing, but keep in mind I come from a place where ALL dances are composed of mosh pits!
She didn't seem to know what she was doing either, but was clearly having fun. And at one point…
…she backhanded me in the chin.
"Oh crap! I'm sorry!" She laughed.
I laughed nervously.
The song then changed into a slow, more ball-like swing.
I rubbed me face and sighed.
I held out my hand to her.
She rolled her eyes. "Obviously."
Her hand on my hand. My other hand on her waist. And her other hand on my shoulder.
We swayed for a while; she wasn't making eye contact with me.
"So…the ship's gonna be fixed soon." I said randomly.
She looked at me and seemed to snap into work mode. "I talked to the old man Garrett. He said it will be ready by tomorrow."
I nodded in agreement.
Then it got silent again.
"Well, how's being a navigator?"
She looked confused. "What?"
"You know, how does it feel? To be a…navigator?"
She looked up and thought for a moment. "I can't remember the last time someone asked me that."
Small talk; my ace in the pocket.
"Well, I love it. I love being a pirate. Sure, we do end up in a lot of fights but we get to see some of the most amazing things in the world. And I'm going to see it all, and draw a map of it all."
She nodded. "Yep. That's my answer. Now I get to ask you a question."
"I'm an open book baby."
And by open book I mean a cursed diary with a padlock.
She gave me an inquisitive look. "Where did you come from?"
I almost stopped.
"I remember when we first met Screaver; you just showing up out of nowhere on that East Blue island all heroic-like and obnoxious. You didn't live on that island, I know that. Whenever someone asks you the question, you dodge it in panic. And I'm not fully sure I buy all the stories you've made up about your past. Demon Weapon or not, exactly what are you?"
If Robin told her anything, I'm going to…no. I'm pretty sure she didn't tell. Otherwise, Nami would say so.
I was stumped. Here I was, slow dancing with Nami in the swankiest club in the ocean, and somehow she has no clue about who I really am.
I knew all about her, SHE knew I knew, but I was still a mystery to most of these guys.
And if I really wanted a relationship with his girl, I knew I couldn't lie forever.
She shook her head. "No. My life is complicated. It's fine if you don't want to tell, I like you for who you are now, not who you were. But honestly, if you think it's that bad, I won't think of you any differently. Well…maybe a little."
I scoffed. She smirked.
Should I…tell her the truth? Michael?
I was on my own.
"Um…well. My name is really Screaver Bartel."
She nodded sarcastically.
"Screaver D. Bartel. Screaver Damien Bartel."
She looked confused. "I didn't know the D stood for anything."
I nodded. "It's not like Luffy. My middle name is Damien."
She nodded. "Interesting. Well, that's something I didn't know."
I nodded. "Well, I had…have a mom and dad."
Again, sarcastic nod.
"And a sister!"
She seemed intrigued. "What's her name?"
"She sounds nice." Nami said politely.
I scoffed. "Yeah right."
She smiled. "Well, this is good! I know a little more about you now."
She moved in closer to me.
"So…where are you from? Really?"
The moment of truth.
"Oh…that's the complicated part."
She looked intrigued. "Go on."
"It's…really hard to explain."
She scoffed. "Screaver, please. After EVERYTHING we've seen? Gorilla men and Gods and giant rivers to the sky?"
I sighed, and then took a deep breath.
"Well…the state I'm from…"
"State?" She said.
"Island," I changed, "is called Texas."
"Ok. I've never heard of this Texass. Is it small?"
"Oh it's pretty big. It's about the biggest state."
She still didn't get it, but she just shrugged off the confusion. "Ok. TEXAS. Sounds…nice."
I shook my head. "Eh, it's not all that great. I didn't really fit in as a kid. Got into a lot of trouble as a kid. Then I learned how to fight…and got into fights a lot."
I felt really awkward about telling her about my childhood, because her childhood was so…fucked up.
Mother murdered by evil pirates, enslaved, had to steal ever since she was like a ten year old or whatever.
Seriously, fuck Arlong. That long nosed fucking bitch faced fucker.
"Still, you seem to be leaving out something." She pressed.
And by pressed, I mean with her boobs.
We were pretty close by this point. My arm was all the way around her, are hands were relaxed; the music had decreased into like a slow waltz.
And then, it concluded.
The crowd applauded.
Nami and I were still close together.
I kissed her on impulse.
I held it a little longer, and then she pushed away. "Ok. I guess you don't want to talk."
I shook my head.
"Alright now folks!" One of the musicians said on his shell on a stick (my guess a den den mushi microphone.) "Thank you for listening to our humble little band."
The dozen musicians stood up and bowed as the people clapped.
"And now, for your ears AND eyes, the Singer of the Sea! The Mermaid of Mellody! Madeline…Clearsky!"
Nami cheered with everyone else, I just put my hands together and clapped a bit.
Screaver, I'm back. Michael said.
Where were you? I was spilling my guts to Nami!
What? Eh, it's about time. He said.
What? Besides, I was talking to Robin.
Relax. He said. I'm still not telling her the truth. Unless you give the go on that. Anyway, I'm altering your vision to spot the real world person.
They're light up in a bright glow, but only to you. Ok? He said.
The audience's cheering grew silent, as the lights dimmed.
The sound of heels clacking grew louder from behind the stage.
The lights grew dark.
From my vision, a glowing silhouette of a woman walked to center stage.
I guess this Clearsky is our fine friend.
Dear…fucking…God. He said, sounding more terrified than I had ever heard of him in my life.
I didn't like the sound of that.
The lights flashed on her.
Dear. Fucking. God.
The woman was clearly about mid 20's to late 20's, but she was a blowout.
That's like a knockout but better.
She was…just…unbelievably beautiful.
The face, the body, the legs!
She had long, long smooth black hair. She had make-up on, with bright red lipstick that went great on her.
Her long black dress clung to her shape tight.
And her breasts…oh the breasts were…
Well they were on that huge boob line that was big, but not to the point where it was unappealing.
I mean, HUGE fake boobs are just kinda off putting.
I mean, hers were huge, but not to which they were unattractive.
Ok, enough about boobs.
She was just…a vision of beauty.
But despite that godly beauty and sexual fantasy, that wasn't why both Michael and I said good fucking God.
…Son of a bitch.
I had no idea what to say or think.
That cute face…that nose…those dark brown eyes.
How…the hell…I can't even…whu…
As the crowd cheered as the lights can on her, my vision lighting up as if this woman was a glowing angel, I gripped Nami tightly.
She looked at me with worry. "Screaver?"
My face had fear all over it. Fear, and disbelief.
"Screaver! What is it?"
She was getting upset. "Ok, I get it; she's beautiful but honestly…"
By the look of my face, she realized it wasn't a look of lust.
"Screaver." She asked softly. "What's wrong?"
She didn't understand. "Who?"
"That woman. She looks…like Catilin."