Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, but I do own the plot for this story and the various OCs.
It was a very beautiful day on Helberald. Although it was April still, the sun was shining like it was June and the snow covering the small island of North Blue was sparkling under the sunrays, making it look like a jewel.
It was the kind of day, with a weather so rare in this season, where every single person with the slightest bit of sanity would be outdoors, enjoying the day. The parents had sent their children to play outside while they were themselves getting some time free from family worries. While all the kids of the town were out in the fields, skating and snowball fighting, the adults had all converged to the main place of the village, because luckily, today was market's day.
And Helberald's main place was quite crowded. People had come from all around the island, either to sell or to buy products, or to enjoy the weather and the ambiance, or to get the latest gossip from their neighbours and acquaintances. But although most of the people there were locals, there also were quite a few travellers coming from all over North Blue—like Noa.
The young girl was putting the supplies she'd just bought in her bag while thanking distractedly the owner of the shop. The latter had been trying to engage a conversation since she had entered his shop.
"You're most welcome, dear," answered the old man, considering her bag full of supplies. "You're travelling the seas, am I right?"
"Indeed I am," Noa nodded with a crooked smile; but oblivious to the fact that his young customer wasn't in a talkative mood, the old man just kept on talking.
"And how long has it been?" He asked curiously.
"Oh, I think it should be around ten years already..." mumbled Noa, shrugging slightly. Her bag was already full and the last can of dried tomatoes just wouldn't fit. "Dang it..."
"You know you look quite young... Although, since it's been ten years, you can't possibly be less than twenty-"
"Oh, actually I'm nineteen," interrupted Noa. Concentrated as she was on making the dried tomatoes fit between the canned fruits and the bandages, she completely missed the look of utter astonishment of the shop owner.
"A young lass such as you, travelling all alone..." said the old man, genuinely worried. "You know how dangerous it is with all these pirates... Shouldn't you consider joining the crew of a merchant? If you did you'd be protected."
"It's quite alright, please, don't worry," said Noa, and she pushed hard to make the can fit. The can kindly got into the bag (finally!) and she smiled, satisfied. She looked back at the old man, still smiling. "I've always liked travelling alone. I enjoy far more being able to decide of my own path freely and stop whenever I feel like it."
"I see." The old man sighed, finally giving up. He shook his head, and smiled (although a bit sadly). "Well good luck!"
Noa simply nodded and turned away without looking back. She was a bit offended by the old man's worrying—he was very nice, right, but being a girl (or should she say a young woman?) didn't mean she couldn't take care of herself. Why judge her only on appearances... Well... She didn't look like much of anything, but that didn't mean she was helpless!
And she wasn't used to anyone worrying about her anymore—she didn't want anyone worrying about her anyway. For years she had been roaming the oceans on her own and she was just fine! She was free of going wherever she wanted to, free of stopping on any island she liked for however long she felt like it, and most of all, she didn't have any bounty so no worry concerning the marines or the bounty hunters!
Although the pirates could be a problem sometime, but until then, she had managed.
Walking quickly through the market place towards the small harbour, she kept on thinking about her conversation with the old man, feeling more and more aggravated by the minute. She really didn't like interacting with people; it was really troublesome and complicated, not worth the bother. They were always asking you questions about your life and things that had nothing to do with them, judging you from what you looked like, giving you their pity even if you didn't want any.
Travel along with a merchandize ship? Did she really look that weak?
Well, it's true that if you were travelling and didn't have to worry all the time about watching your back, sailing the seas would be much more enjoyable... But she didn't have much of a choice anyway, because there was also Rose—little, adorable Rose, the only human on earth worth interacting with. Rose was just a kid, there was no way a merchant would accept a useless kid on his ship... Well, Noa would have to pay but she didn't have the money so that pretty much ruled out this possibility.
Noa sighed. No easy way for her, she'd have to keep on watching her own back—and Rose's too—all by herself, like the responsible grown-up she was.
Determinedly, Noa pushed the old man and his unwelcomed advices out of her head as she left the main place of the village. In a couple of minutes, she was on the small harbour of Helberald. Without pausing, she headed straight for her small boat and jumped on board.
"Rose! I'm back!" she called. "And guess what? I have a surprise for you!"
Receiving no answer, Noa went inside. The galley (or what had been named as such, by default of a real one) was completely empty and the little girl was nowhere to be seen.
"Rosie-Rose!" called Noa again, setting her bag down on the table. "Are you here?"
Could it be that she was asleep? Was she bluffing, one week earlier, when she had told Noa that she was big enough and didn't need afternoon naps anymore? Noa walked through the galley and opened the door to their bedroom, but the beds were empty.
Could it be nightmares like last time? But when Noa looked under the beds, she didn't find any little girl.
"Strange. Where could she be?" muttered the young woman. She was beginning to get worried. Really worried. "She can't be in the storage room, she never goes down there. She said she hates it."
But knowing Rose, the little girl could have decided that she wanted to face her fears and gone into the storage room, locking accidentally herself up. In which case she would be terrified...
Noa went quickly back to the galley and opened the trap leading to the small storage room. "Rose, you can come out now!" She called, but once again, there was only silence. "Rosie?"
Noa closed the trap, a bit more forcefully than she had meant, and looked around her, nervously clenching her hands. Not good, this was really not good. The boat wasn't really big, there was no possible hiding place and Rose was nowhere to be seen... So she could only be somewhere outside the boat.
"Crap! And I told her not to leave the boat!" groaned Noa.
She ran out of the boat and jumped on the solid ground, her heart beating so hard it almost hurt. She looked around her, thinking about all the reasons why Rose couldn't be left alone outside, imagining all that could have happened to her.
If anyone recognized her, if anyone hurt her... She thought wildly.
"Onee-san?" called suddenly a small voice.
Eyes wide, Noa turned to the person whose voice she had just heard. A little girl with big, bright eyes, the colour of North Blue, and long light pink hair was innocently watching her.
"Rose!" Noa exclaimed, letting out a long sigh—she was so relieved! She dropped to her knees and took the child by her shoulders, looking at her gravely. "Where have you been? I was so worried! I told you not to leave the boat!"
"I was just here," answered Rose, showing barrels standing on the edge of the harbour, barely ten meters away from their own boat. "There was Mr Panda and he looked quite lonely. So I went there to sit with him and look at the sea."
"Mr who?" asked Noa, furrowing slightly her brows. Wasn't Rose a bit too old to have imaginary friends?
"Mr Panda!" exclaimed Rose, beaming at the young woman. "Come! He wants to meet you too!"
Rose then took Noa's hand and dragged her to the barrels, calling for the mysterious Mr Panda.
"Who is Mr Panda?" Noa asked again, sceptically.
"He lives here, on Helberald," answered Rose. Since Noa was not walking fast enough in her opinion, the small girl let go and ran ahead, disappearing behind the barrels, but she kept on talking all the while. "And he likes the town very much, because there are always lots of fish and fish is his favourite!"
Noa crossed her arms and waited patiently for Rose to come out. What had she invented this time?
"Ah! Mr Panda! Here you are! Come on! Onee-san is back and she wants to meet you!"
When Rose finally came into view, she was holding a very big and fat cat in her small arms—a white cat with black spots, and especially black spots around each one of his eyes, making him, indeed, look exactly like a panda.
Here we go again... She picked something up and now she's never going to want to leave it...
"Rose..." began Noa, trying to find the right words.
"He's cute, isn't he!" said little Rose, beaming at her onee-san, pure glee in her eyes. "And he's also very nice! Look!"
Noa stared at the cat, who stared right back at her with his yellow eyes. In a matter of second, the young woman was frowning: she could swear this cat was looking down on her!
"I don't doubt a minute that he's very nice," she said with a stiff smile, trying to ignore the cat who was still glaring at her. "But sweetie, we already talked about that, remember?"
Rose's reaction was instantaneous. "But, onee-san! Mr Panda..."
"Is a cat," Noa interrupted softly. "He's living here, on Helberald. It's his home. You wouldn't separate him from his home, would you?"
Rose remained silent, looking sad and ashamed: she had obviously been thinking about taking Mr Panda away from his home.
"It's ok, Rose," said Noa, smiling warmly. "Now, let Mr Panda continue his nap and come with me, I have a surprise for you."
"A surprise?" The little girl exclaimed, looking instantaneously better. "What is it?"
"Come on! It wouldn't be a surprise if I told, now would it? It's in the ship already. Let's go!"
Rose gently put Mr Panda down. "Goodbye, Mr Panda! Take care!"
Laughing softly, Noa took little Rose's hand in hers. Walking side by side, they slowly went back to their small boat. Noa was listening to her little sister's happy chattering, smiling softly and answering in all the right places.
They got on the boat and Rose let go of Noa's hand, running towards the galley.
"Hurry up, onee-san!" She called from inside. "I want my surprise!"
Smiling amusedly, Noa took her own sweet time before going into the galley: she 'tidied up' the deck, enjoying thoroughly the frustrated cries from the little girl. Finally, she entered the boat, only to see Rose, her head in the supplies bag, looking for the promised surprise.
"Couldn't wait, huh?" Noa couldn't help but laugh as she watched the little girl half disappearing into the bag. "Ok, get out! I'm gonna dig it up for you! You couldn't find it anyway: I hid it!"
"Alright, but hurry up," the little girl said.
She got out of the bag, pouting—which only got her sister to laugh louder.
"Tada!" exclaimed proudly Noa, taking out of the bag a small wrapped packet.
"What is it?" asked Rose, puzzled.
"Open it. But be careful, it's very fragile!"
Rose took the small packet and opened it carefully. When she was done, her round face lit up with sheer joy.
"Strawberries! You found strawberries!" the little girl said, looking adoringly at her big sister.
"I did!" Noa answered, smiling broadly. "It's been such a long time since you could eat some. I saw these and just had to buy them."
"Waaaa! What should I do? Say, onee-san, should we bake something? Or a fruit salad? Or a mousse? Or-"
"Calm down! You know I can't cook well. I could try to make a cake, but if I failed... Wouldn't you like to eat them just as they are? I tried one of them on the market, they're really good, you know."
Rose looked down at the strawberries thoughtfully. She took one and raised it very slowly to her mouth, keeping her eyes on it the whole time. She froze her hand millimetres away from her mouth—she was thinking so hard that Noa could almost see the wheels reeling in her head. The rose-haired girl hesitated for a couple of seconds more before she gulped it down.
Noa looked at her expectantly, waiting for the verdict. But Rose didn't say anything—she didn't need to. She took another strawberry and ate it with a very contented smile. As she was eating the third strawberry, she went to sit on a chair.
"Don't eat too much of them or you'll get sick," Noa said as she began taking things out of her bag again. "Keep half of it for your breakfast tomorrow."
"Mm-mmh," answered her little sister, obviously intent on eating them all right now.
Well, at least I warned her...
After Noa put all the supplies in the cupboards, she took the last item out of the bag: the most recent newspaper of North Blue, with all the bounties newly edited. She sat at the table, facing little Rose.
She began to go through all the bounties one by one, looking especially for the one concerning North Blue. As Rose and she were always travelling, they had great chances of encountering pirates and Noa wanted to be prepared—regularly keeping up to date with the bounties was one way to keep up to date.
Lately, she was particularly worried with one of the youngest crews, whose captain's bounty had been increasing exponentially in barely half a year. She was all the more anxious because they'd been seen on a nearby island barely a couple of weeks ago, the result now being that their bounties had gone up again. She really didn't want to have to face them, but they had already spent too much time on Helberald and they couldn't afford to get delayed anymore. Even if the chances of encountering the pirates in these water were high, they had to take the chance.
Sighing deeply, she laid the young captain's bounty on the table, staring at it darkly.
"Who's that?" asked Rose curiously, temporarily pausing her strawberry feast.
"Trafalgar Law," answered Noa. "He's the captain of the Heart pirates."
"Heart Pirates? That's a strange name... As if they could be nice."
According to the newspaper, they're not nice at all though, Noa thought, cringing inwardly; but she didn't want to worry the little girl so she smiled. I hope we won't ever have to see them with our own eyes. Law's bounty is now 100 million berries and his crew was created barely seven months ago.
"He looks really tired," Rose noted, slightly worried. "Maybe he's sick?"
Noa quickly looked at the other bounties, but apart from Trafalgar Law's, only a few had changed. She got up and went to her desk, in the corner of the room, where she put them in a drawer. When she came back to the table, Rose had already resumed her devouring of the strawberries.
The young woman sat down at the table and began to read the paper.
"Onee-san, you're planning on leaving the island soon?" suddenly asked the little girl between two mouthful of strawberries.
Noa turned her eyes towards her sister, looking at her carefully. Throughout the years, the eldest had always been worried of her sister getting tired of their chaotic way of life.
"I was thinking of leaving tomorrow, early in the morning," Noa said finally. "I want to go further south, where there is a nicer weather. What do you think?"
"That sounds great!" the little girl smiled brightly. She continued on enthusiastically eating strawberries—which were now almost finished.
Although going south may not be the best idea ever, Noa thought bitterly. It's close to the Grand Line entrance so there will be lots of pirates AND lots of marines... It's dangerous all right, but I'm tired of the snow, I need sun!
Lost in her own thoughts, Noa wasn't even reading anymore. She was just looking blankly at the pages.
We will have to be careful though, find an island where we won't be noticed... Maybe we could even stay a bit longer... After all, it's been ten years now, I don't think anybody could recognize me anymore... Is there anybody left who can recognize me anyway?
Noa shook her head and put all of her questions in the back of her mind: if she began thinking about such things now, it would never end.
She concentrated on the article which read:
New law passed by the World Government: The Shichibukai grow even more powerful.
A/N: Hey there! I had this idea on my mind for a while and decided finally to publish it. I read a lot of Law/OC stories, but the OC was always Law's mechanic. I want to make this story different, hopefully that's what you're looking for too and I won't disappoint you!
Don't forget to review, please-reviews ARE a writer's fuel!