30. Snow

Rating: T

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For a time it was silent, the only sound being the muffled crunching of their booted feet as they trudged through the thick snow. Quiet enough to hear a pin drop, would the pin itself not be muffled by the snow, but this peace was not to last.

"They're back," Zoro said, his voice somewhere between annoyance and anticipation.

"They certainly are persistent," Robin said with a smile. They had time to exchange only a brief, loving gaze before "they" descended upon them. Blugori. The two were currently trespassing in the savage blue apes' native habitat, the snow-covered mountainous heights of this large island in the North Blue. They were here on a rumor, a fragment of a memory that Robin thought she had.

The newlyweds were looking for somewhere to settle down. Of course, he was the first mate to the Pirate King, and she was a triple threat: Nakama to the Pirate King, Angel of the Revolution, and Devil Child of Ohara. If they wanted to live anything resembling a peaceful life, their options were limited. If they wanted to live a peaceful life in reasonably civilized conditions, well, their options were practically nonexistent.

Practically, but not actually. Thinking hard, Robin had recalled something she had heard during her two-year stint with the Revolutionaries, a rumor of a safe haven for dissidents, a place where innocent people targeted by the World Government could live their lives in peace. Zoro and Robin were hardly innocent, but both having fulfilled their dreams and with a child on the way, they now wanted to live in peace, but knew they could not. The haven was hidden somewhere on a North Blue island, a large, mountainous island that was home to the Blugori. The World Government came by often, trading shiny metal weapons with the Blugori tribes in exchange for taking their sons and daughters into servitude, mostly to Impel Down.

They had run into a group of the Blugori before, but Robin managed to scare them off with her powers. They had been spooked, but not truly scared, and merely returned in greater numbers and with some of their precious metal weaponry to deal with the interlopers. Without the uniforms they wore in Impel down, the Blugori looked less intimidating, the only scary part about them being their hideous under bite, exposing their lower teeth to the elements. They had blue fur, but Zoro and Robin had seen far stranger things in their day (and indeed had lived with stranger things on a daily basis).

The Blugori tried to surround them, catching Zoro and Robin in this snowbound mountain pass, stepping into view through the haze of snow. Zoro smiled, unsheathing his katana once again, placing one in his mouth and taking the others in each hand. Silence returned for a time as the Blugori stared at the intruders, both sides knowing they could not communicate with one another, and both sides intent on the other's total destruction. The tension hung thick as the snow continued to fall when one Blugori, taller than the rest and wielding a bladed partisan, gestured towards the two of them and roared.

Zoro responded by swiping two of his swords forward, the strokes of the mighty swordsman cleaving the air itself, sweeping the Blugori that stood before them away, including the presumed leader, but that was only the front, and they were surrounded on all sides. The remaining Blugori pounced, and the battle was joined.

Zoro fought ferociously, though it wasn't entirely necessary. He had dealt with worse than the Blugori before, they were no match for the Humandrills, for instance, and he had dealt with them even before his training with Mihawk, in a time that felt like someone else's life. The Blugori were still cunning, strong, swift, and reasonably well-armed, with a wide variety of metal weaponry in evidence. The cheap metal of their arms could not stand up to the swordsman's blades, however, and even when they were able to try and block a swift stroke from his katana, they merely shattered against the superior steel. He felled many of them, staining the white snow with their blood.

He could hear his wife performing equally well. He had originally insisted that she remain behind at the coast: the climate was better and it was far safer, but he should have known better. He saw her breaking their thick-boned arms and legs and twisting necks, saw her bend their bodies over with many of her vice-like arms, snap their spines, and heave their paralyzed bodies over the cliff to tumble down the mountainside, saw her do things to them that even the battle-hardened master swordsman thought unpleasant. He thought she looked incredibly sexy even at 7 months pregnant, her swollen stomach clearly visible under the heavy coat she wore. The cold steel of her eyes complemented the chill environment wonderfully, and he couldn't help but marvel at the efficient way she fought, downing so many foes without even moving her own body. If anything, an expectant mother's instincts had made her all the more lethal: the ferocity of a mother bear combining with her normal reptilian precision and cruelty. He loved his wife for her deadliness, as well as many other things.

The fight was brief, feeling longer than it actually lasted, and entirely successful for the newlyweds. Originally a gang of about 40 Blugori accosted them, and only eight of them were able to flee the battlefield at the end of it all. Zoro sheathed his swords and looked at his wife. "That was fun," he said.

"Indeed," Robin replied, "that was quite refreshing." She suddenly cringed a little.

"What?" Zoro said, concern rising in his voice. "Are you okay?"

"Fine," Robin said, smiling and stroking her stomach. "The baby just kicked."

"Heh," Zoro smirked, their child wasn't even out of the womb yet and already could affect his wife more than a whole troop of Blugori. "Heh heh," he chuckled, distracted by that thought.

"Zoro," Robin chided, "come along."

Zoro snapped back to reality, seeing that Robin had walked ahead of him, over the rim of the mountain pass, and was now looking down into the valley beyond. "Right," he said absently.

He walked towards his wife slowly, booted feet crunching in the snow. The snowfall subsided temporarily, giving him a clear vision both ahead and behind. As he approached her, he was able to see what she could see, down the far side of the mountain. Far below, in the intermittent patches of sunlight breaking through the clouds, he could see a little patch of green nestled between the mountainous heights. The valley, safe from the Blugori who lived only in higher altitudes, was dappled with buildings: the rumor was true. This would be their new home.

"It appears as though the safe haven does exist," Robin remarked, continuing to stride forward.

Zoro hesitated again, watching his wife move ahead towards their new home. For a second, he looked back. Behind him stood his old life, behind him were dozens of dead or wounded Blugori, apes struck down by the mightiest swordsman in the world. Behind him stood the warrior that had cut those Blugori down without remorse, who had wandered the entire world, wading through blood and destruction, to become the best of all. Behind him stood a man wild and free, but alone, a life that was comfortable and familiar, but lacking one specific element.

Before him stood his new life, his wife, and the one she bore in her womb. She was the one he loved above all others, who had been with him through his darkest hours and who had helped him achieve his dream, as he had helped her. The old him would have felt obligated to continue traveling the world. He was considered the strongest swordsman in the world only because he had beaten the one widely believed to be the strongest in the world, but ultimately there was no proof: he would have to keep fighting people again and again to continue to reinforce that proof, or until some other more ambitious than he was able to defeat him, but he had new obligations. He was obligated to give his wife a husband, and to give his child a father, to be with the ones who loved him as long as they would have him.

Sure, it might be boring compared to his old lifeā€¦

"Zoro," Robin said, interrupting his thoughts again, "are you coming?"

He looked at his wife and smiled, knowing that it would not be boring at all.

Zoro hiked down out of the snow-covered heights with Robin, leaving the snow to bury the remnants of his old life, the slain Blugori, in a sheet of clean white. He would shed the title of Demon Cutter and she would no longer be the Devil Child, demons no longer, but rather husband and wife, father and mother.

Epilogue:
Ahh, this was a grand and glorious journey, wasn't it? 30 prompts, some of them good, some of them not as good. Now is the time for post-mortem! You have to tell me what I did right in the process, and what I did wrong (namely which ficlets were good and which ones were lackluster). I myself am rather dissatisfied with Drift and Warrior, though I could name others that didn't come out as good as they could have. I especially liked the main-line ficlets that I put into their own little timeline (Ark, Clouds, Ugly Shirt, Sakura, Color, and this last one, Snow). I think Cook and its sequel Lies were also particularly strong, as were Slingshot, Salvage, and Casino.

Personal thanks go out to Amethyst Turtle, who helped me come up with this idea initially, as well as my perpetual reviewers: JuzSomeone, PomRania, Aquilaa, Andara, and Tare-Chan, as well as everyone else who took the time to review or favorite. Please do me one last favor and review this again!

This was quite an exhaustive experience for me, putting out one ficlet a day except for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now I am going to go hibernate for the winter, and oh what a glorious time that will be!