Chapter 2

Fear is not the strongest negative human emotion for nothing. It is capable of torturing, strangling and cutting a usually so confident, and at times alluring baritone to pieces, only to knead it into a distorted, vocal-chord-ripping cry. Into a desperate yell, which echoed a single name throughout the strange and increasingly fearsome island, and which seemed to make every move hang and every breath hitch for a moment. In the later heroic tales of the Mugiwara pirates, this voice was upreared into a powerful sound of alarm, able to blow everything away. If the two escaping girls hadn't known better, they could have mistaken this rumbling bellow for the cause of the earth quaking under their feet.

"It's Sanji-kun's voice!", Nami panted and slowed down for a moment, but Robin didin't let her hand go and pulled her on.

"It came from the Northeast", the raven haired archeologist stated. "I hope they are unharmed. Come, Navigator-san, let us hurry!"

The redhead nodded, but immediately a scream tore from her throat as several golden trees fell with a loud rumble and dived into the ever spreading abyss. The widening cleft chased them like an invisible beast, piercing the earth with its deadly claws. Due to the ever increasing trembling and panic, at times one of them slipped and fell to the ground, almost falling victim to the greedy pit, but they kept on running, helping up and supporting one another, heading into the direction where Sanji's – and hopefully their other comrades' – location was.

oXo

Sanji, so to say, had gotten into a state of shock. He felt dizzy and his ears buzzed, and the few moments he had been just staring in front of himself seemed like hours. But even after these lengthened seconds, his short-circuited mind couldn't cough up anything better to do than falling to his knees, grabbing the shoulders of the unconscious swordsman and shaking him violently.

"Zoro! Zoro! Wake up! Hey! ZOZO!"

His body shook, and his breathing, already fast due to their previous fighting, grew more ragged.

"Get up! It's not funny! Hey!", he said, even though he knew fully well that it wasn't a joke. But there was a small hope inside of him for some reason that Zoro just wanted to mess with him. That it was just a bad pun on the man's behalf. It had to be...!

Though, his nakama didn't answer. He just lay unmoving in the cook's grip, only his head bobbing back and forth from the shaking. The blond just glared at the fainted man for awhile and sneered at him, as if he was blaming him for what had just happened. Then, after some time, when his jumbled up thoughts have gathered somewhat, he suddenly remembered that white thing he saw among the trees while sparring. He whipped his head in the direction he remembered discovering that certain fourth person present, but he didn't see anyone. In fact, instead of four, there were only two of them now. The strawhat-wearing captain has gone missing, as well.

"Luffy?" His breath hitched for a moment once again. "Luffy! Where the hell did you go?"

Great. Just fucking great! The captain vanished into thin air, he hadn't seen Nami and Robin since they had docked and Zoro was so kind as to keel over!

"Goddammit...!" He slammed his fist against the ground.

His gaze returned to his unconscious comrade, with whom he remained alone in the middle of their stomped-out battlefield. Zoro's face started to turn a reddish color, sweat pearling on his forehead and his breath coming out in puffs through his parted lips. The typical signs of fever. Sanji placed his palm onto the swordsman's forehead, and frowned as his suspicion proved to be correct. He quickly put an arm under the man's armpit and took him onto his shoulder, then slowly stood up. He didn't have any other choice; he had to take him to Chopper as soon as possible. He would definitely come back to look for the others after that, and they would get the fuck away from this freaky place.

"Nami-san! Robin-chwan! Hold on!", he called to the dark sky, not being able to address his dear ladies directly, while adjusting the swordsman's thick arms around his neck.

He was just on his way towards the beach, not having any time to waste, when he stumbled upon one of Zoro's swords; the white-handled one, which the green-haired idiot usually held in his mouth, and without which he refused to go anywhere. Sanji sighed and put down his unconscious companion onto the ground once again, then gathered the three scattered katana. Leaving them there would have been like leaving Luffy's straw hat behind. The damn bastard would have never forgiven him. Not that he cared...

Upon sticking the third sword under his arm as well, he discovered a shiny object in the dust. At first he thought it to be a jewel fragment from one of the trees, but as he took it in his hand and examined it more closely, he noticed it being slightly different from the stones dangling from the golden branches around him. Traces of a human intervention were visible on it: it had been chiseled into a cylindrical shape and a hole had been made through the middle of it. A few drops of some kind of suspicious-colored liquid still stuck to the sides of the makeshift vial, clearly showing that it had also been filled with something. Furthermore, a thin metallic needle had been fastened to one end of the object, which was now stained with blood, and a few drops of that very same liquid were still hanging from the needle-end. He didn't have to be neither a scientist nor a doctor to realize that he held a dart injection in his hands. And that blood stuck to its needle must have been Zoro's, without a doubt. He let the small crystal vial slide into his shirt pocket; it may be still of use to Chopper.

After that, he lifted the green-haired swordsman off the ground again, and holding the three weapons to his side, he continued striding towards the Going Merry.

oXo

The earth quaked, as if it had been a strained rope being plunked by a supernatural force. The coughing and wheezing figure slowly slid down along the tree trunk to which they were pushed against, and stared down on their bloody palms they wiped their mouth with a second ago. Their blurry gaze was fixed on those pair of flip-flops, which, under other circumstances, would have made their bearer appear as a harmless fool, but now forced the wounded to make the tightening in their throat disappear with a painful gulp. They lifted their gaze up slowly along the two thin legs and torso, onto those dark, burning pair of eyes, which were like daggers through their whole body. Their foe pulled his straw hat onto his brow, making it cast frightening shadows onto his features. He lifted up his bent arm, the back of his fisted hand towards the weakened opponent. His other hand slid up on his bicep, pulling up his non-existing shirt sleeve while he kept his piercing glare on the coughing and rattling figure. Then suddenly, he spoke, his voice overpowering the rumbling earthquake.

"At first I thought you were cool. But you harmed my nakama, so I'm gonna kick your ass."

oXo

Like a terrible nightmare. You have no idea why or where you are running, but you feel in your very bones that you have to get there. You run as fast as your feet are able to carry you, and you feel like your lungs are about to explode, but you still can't see the end of the road. What's worse, your goal seems to slip farther and farther away from you, and the road only seems longer. It grows right before your eyes, like a writhing, winding snake.

Nami was sure she had never run that fast, and never felt that dizzy before in her life. The earth was shaking and rippling under her feet, threatening to simply slip from under her any minute. Her eyeballs were nearly jumping in her skull, barely allowing her to take out anything from her blurry and constantly moving surroundings aside from that hand, holding tightly onto her own. Her ears were buzzing amidst the chaos that wanted to pull the both of them into its depths, and next to her own labored breathing, she hardly heard fragments of Robin's voice, of which she was sure it was urging her on and on to hold on. If it weren't for that though scared, but determined voice, stubbornly leading her towards their ever-fading goal, she might have given in to the temptation to just close her eyes and let the terror-snake throw her off its back.

"Look out, Navigator-san!", Robin's voice pierced through the rumbling and buzzing, her hand tugged the redhead's hard and the world suddenly tipped to the left.

Deafening boom from the right, as if from right next to her ear. Another row of trees fell into the widening abyss, shedding twinkling crystal-tears. That was close. Nami sighed in relief.

"Robin, are you alright?", the question fell from her mouth, like a sigh, as she tried to catch her breath.

"I am fine, Navigator-san. But we have to hurry", the archeologist reached for her hand to help her up. The quivering grew unbearably strong by then, making it even harder for them to stand up for the umpteenth time. The threat-opposing noises, however, were nearly catching up with the two women, and this was why, no matter how many bruises their knees bore and how much the sweat stung on the small cuts on their palms, they had no other choice but to run until their last breath.

We can't get stuck here on this God-forsaken island! We have overcome much bigger dangers than this! What about the One Piece? What would Luffy think...?

You'd better be okay, you idiots...

A new determination, spiced with some anger is the best recipe for endurance, thus Nami's feet all but flew in the direction of the shore, towards the Merry, towards her friends.

Towards their dreams.

She felt as if she had already learned how and where to put her feet on this ever-moving ground, and she could almost hear the sound of the sea.

However, over-confidence is the potion of downfall.

To the navigator's big surprise, her next step didn't meet the ground. By the time she could take a glance in front of herself to find out the reason, her other foot has left the "solid" foundation as well, the dark and deep chasm awaiting her with open mouth.

But with just a pinch of luck...

She didn't even have time to give out a squeak, nor to think about why she was flying upwards instead of falling. She barely opened her mouth to let out a terrified scream, when something suddenly swung against her back, making her slam against Robin's. A particularly loud and cheerful something. She only screamed then, partly due to fright, partly because of relief.

"Luffy?"

"Ooooh! Nami! Robin!", the improvised rubber cannon ball laughed, who actually was their captain. He noticed only then, it seemed, that he had bumped into the two girls. "I was just looking for you! We're getting outta here! To the Merry!"

oXo

After a few minutes of running, the blond cook successfully reached the sandy beach, coming out from between the trees. He scanned the landscape with his one visible eye, and his lips curled up into a smile as he discovered the Going Merry. However, when he let out a breath and was about to approach it, the earth gave a sudden shake under his shoes, and losing his balance, he almost dropped the unconscious Zoro from his back.

"Sanji! Sanji, are you okay?", he heard a familiar, high-pitched voice calling him.

Gaining back his stability, the blond saw Chopper's nearing figure as he strode towards him rapidly with his long reindeer-legs.

"I'm fine, Chopper", he told his panting and frightened friend calmingly as he arrived next to him, more exhausted from being scared rather than from running. "But Zoro..."

He peeled the lax arms off of his neck, and pushed the swordsman into the arms of the doctor. Chopper, after having taken human form, held him steady, not letting him fall to the ground, then knelt down with him onto the sand. Not taking his expert eyes off his comrade for a second, he already began the examination. His first move was to put his hand onto Zoro's forehead, as to be expected.

"Oh my goodness, he's burning up! What happened to him?", he all but squealed while he padded the man's limbs and searched for his pulse.

"I'm not sure. We were fighting, when... he suddenly collapsed", the cook squeezed out the words, a little harder than he had intended to.

Chopper's gaze then got caught by Zoro's arm, more precisely by the blue-purple spot spreading there, and his practiced eyes noticed the small hole in the middle of the dark and bloodshot patch of skin. Was he stung by a bug? No, it didn't look like a normal insect sting; the skin around the hole wasn't swollen, and the puncture had a larger, more definite outline. Artificial. Needle-trace. When the doctor lifted his gaze onto Sanji once again, opening his mouth in attempt to question him further, the cook spoke again.

"Wait, there's something else...", he started as the thought struck him, quickly patting along all his pockets, and when he felt up his shirt pocket, his face showed that he found what he was looking for. His hand was shaking, thus the object got caught up in the light blue fabric, and it took him a forceful tug and some muttering of low curses to free it and finally hand it over to Chopper.

"Here. I found this in the dust near him. And I saw someone hiding in the woods just before he lost consciousness, but I noticed too late, and... After Zoro fell, I lost sight of that motherfucker..."

The reindeer took a look at the shiny object. Dart injection. He guessed right. He took an angry glance at the tiny vial, as if he was glaring at the culprit himself, just about to throw one or two harsh words at him. Then he turned back to the green haired man, and worry appeared on his face next to the anger as his eyes took in the pain the other displayed.

"He's showing symptoms of infection", he said in a stern voice as he stood, wrapping and arm around Zoro's abs and taking him over his shoulder. "I have to examine him more thoroughly."

"I'll leave him up to you, then", Sanji already held his yearned-for cigarette between his lips, igniting its end with a click of his lighter. "I'm going back for the others. We've gotta get out of here very fucking quickly."

"You're planning to go back there alone?", Chopper asked incredulously. "But Sanji, that asshole who did this to Zoro is still out there somewhere!"

"Exactly. I don't have a choice. You have to take care of Zoro, and Usopp has to guard the ship." He bit the filter of his smoke in irritation. "I won't let the others end up like this..."

The reindeer took a breath, about to say more dissuasive words, when Zoro let out a small groan. The grip of his arm, holding the sick man in place, tightened, and his chest heaved a heavy sigh.

"Alright. Bring them back. And take care."

"I will." A reassuring, brave smile tugged on the corners of the cook's mouth, and turning on his heels, he headed back into the woods, while the doctor hurriedly made his way into the opposite direction.

They barely took a few steps, though, when a far-away scream made both of them stop in their tracks. Sanji's face went pale with shock as he recognized the female voice.

"Nami-san!"

The redhead's cry seemed distant at first, but grew louder with frightening speed, the rustling of stirred leaves and branches joining in. What's more, as the noise came closer, another voice could be heard next to it. Not nearly as frightened as Nami's, though not less loud. Cheerful, lively, laughing.

"Luffy?", the name slipped from both nakama at the same time.

But they didn't exactly have time to wonder, for soon a giant tangled-up pile of laughing and screaming limbs flew out from between the trees, which toppled them over before an elastic rubbery hand plastered them to the ball as well. And so the team of the screamers gained two new members as they flew towards the Merry after bouncing off the ground, leaving nothing behind except a few footprints and Sanji's dropped cigarette.

oXo

Usopp kept an eye on Chopper all the while, who, upon hearing Sanji's cry, went right after their comrades into the woods. He also was the startled witness of their blond nakama coming out from among the trees, carrying Zoro on his back. But just then, a horrifying hairy and buzzing monster appeared from out of nowhere and hindered his eyesight! Of course, he didn't squeal like a girl and didn't back against the mast in fright. Not at all! We're talking about the mighty Captain Usopp here! Thus he had no reason to feel awkward as he beheld a fly sitting on his nose after taking off his goggles. But even if he did feel embarrassed, it could have been said in his defense that no matter how he tried to swat the damned beast away, it stubbornly insisted on staying on its spot on the bridge of his nose. After some struggle, the damn thing finally got the hint and flew away, and Usopp sighed victoriously before stepping back to his previous lookout-position at the railing. But as he looked through his lenses anew, he was dumbfounded to find that his comrades disappeared into thin air.

"What the...? Where did they go?", he blinked as fear (once again) took a grip on his throat.

However, he didn't have another second to mull over the phenomenon, due to the loud screaming reaching his ears. Approaching cries. And... familiar cries?

"Nami? Luffy?", he turned about, fervently searching for the source of his fellow crewmates' shouts. "And Sanji and Chopper, too?"

Then, his ears also picked up the whooshing noise of the fall of a heavy object, which switched the alarms on in the sharpshooter's mind: "danger, danger, run, run". But when the aforementioned, ready-to-land thing cast its shadow on him, the alarm mechanism was wrecked by panic, and not knowing where to run, the long-nose started scurrying around in circles, screaming and waving his arms in the air. Looking back, he couldn't decide if he had fainted due to the impact itself or the pre-impact shock.

The huge pile of groaning (and stupidly laughing) bodyparts made a bounce on board, tilting the Going Merry slightly to the side before hitting the mast and scattering to its components.

"Wohohoooo, this was awesome! Let's do it again!", Luffy cheered on top of the mound of his nakama, clapping his hands happily.

"Get off, you idiot!", came the consonant reply from everyone, and the straw-hat, though reluctantly, had to jump off his growling seat, which probably consisted of the strange mix of Nami's knee, Chopper's ass and Sanji's shoulder.

"You're no fun...", the boy whined, pursing his lips in a pout.

The pirates of the Mugiwara crew tried to untangle themselves from the pile with moans and groans, rubbing at their aching limbs and complaining about their pea-brained captain. Said captain, for the record, just laughed at them and the "funny" faces and sound they were making. Though all this was quickly replaced by shocked gasps and whipping of heads when they heard Zoro's pained wheeze. Chopper was immediately on his feet, his hoofs clacking on the wood as he ran to the hatch leading to the boys' cabin, jumping down to get his equipment. Luffy's face, too, lost its joyfulness with astonishing quickness, the very same dark expression taking its place which he had shown as his comrade had fallen. While the others gathered around their suffering crewmate and couldn't really do anything except stare down on him in shock, the captain stayed where he was, head hanging and fists clenching. He cursed the bastard that did this to his first mate for the thousandth time.

"Zoro?", Nami stretched out her hand towards the swordsman, but stopped mid-movement as he flinched and shook with his whole body, coughing heavily.

"Oh my God! What happened to him?", Usopp screeched.

"He's been shot with something", Sanji answered, forcing his voice to stay calm. "Chopper said it's some kind of virus."

Meanwhile, the door of the hatch slammed closed, and Chopper's knees and his medical bag soon hit the floor next to the writhing man.

"Don't just stand there, help me hold him down!", the little doctor commanded.

The order sobered the startled crew right up, and they rapidly grabbed Zoro's limbs while Chopper gave the man a round pill, probably some kind of painkiller. It must have been something crazy strong, for in a couple of minutes the swordsman's muscles relaxed, his brow smoothed out a little, and though still panting, he lay there on the planks of the deck with a slightly more relieved expression. The ship's doctor then lifted him up carefully and made his way with him towards the men's bunk.

"Can I leave the rest to you", he said to the others, not even voicing it as an actual question.

"Just go and get Zoro into shape!", Usopp squared his shoulders, though it would have been hard not to notice the sound of his knees clacking together. "We'll handle the rest!"

Chopper nodded to them, then disappeared behind the cabin door. Aside from the noise of the gathering storm, the ship fell silent, so it wasn't that surprising that everyone looked Luffy's way as the boy slowly walked over to the figurehead and jumped on top of it.

"Alright!", he started in a loud voice, adjusting his treasured straw hat on his head. "We've wasted enough time on this stupid island! Let's go!"

"Aye!", the crew resounded, louder than the clashing of the waves.

oXo

As the group of pirates scattered to check the sails, the cargo and the cannons one last time, and to lift the anchor instead of Zoro with combined energy (and lots of slipping and falling onto their behinds and each other), Nami watched the clouds, deep in thought.

"Nami, what are we waiting for?", the rubbery pirate looked at his navigator, impatience and sulking mingling on his features.

"We have a problem", the redhead announced, sighing. "The direction of the wind hasn't changed since we have docked. It still blows towards the island, and it's even stronger now than when we've arrived here."

"And how long is it going to be this way, Nami-san?", Sanji asked as he stepped next to her, dusting off his suit jacket. That stupid long-nose stepped on it as he tripped.

"I have no idea..." The navigator frowned and turned her gaze away, tugging a stray red strand behind her ear, which was blown onto her cheek by the strong wind. "It doesn't look like it's about to change. I have a bad feeling that the weather is always like this around here."

"What?", Usopp squeaked, whipping his arms up in shock. "Y-you're saying we're stuck here on this cursed island? Fo-fo-forever?"

Because Nami only answered with another sigh, the sharpshooter couldn't contain his fright any longer, and started running around the deck, screaming things like "We're all gonna die!" and "We're doomed!" in a loud, squeaky voice.

"Shut up already, I can't think like this!", the red-hair told him off harshly, and Usopp stopped suddenly, as if somebody had pushed the pause button, then fell to his knees, sobbing.

"We'll never get out of here...!", he sniffed. "The great Captain Usopp's heroic tale ends here...!"

"Didn't you hear what Nami-san said? Shut your damn trap!", the blond cook's shoe tread made contact with the long-nose's head, pushing him to the ground, successfully reducing his cries to some pained groans.

"Hmm..." Nami examined the sky with her scrutinizing gaze, tapping her chin as she pondered. "This isn't just an every-day kind of wind. It seems so... unnatural. Artificial. Like a trap."

Just then, the booming of yet another quake caught her attention. Another bunch of sparkly-leaved trees sank to their sad end, revealing the bright light-orb they had discovered with Robin in the heart of the island earlier. Above the orb whirled a giant wind funnel, draping its stormcloud-cape over the sky, illuminated by strips of lightning running through it. She dared say that the wind came directly from the orb.

"There!" Nami pushed against the railing with sudden momentum, pointing her finger towards the shining globe. "That's the center of the whole storm! It's coming from that light-orb there!"

"That seems to be correct", the ebony haired archeologist spoke, walking up next to her with measured steps. "It looks like it is capable of controlling the weather and gives light to the whole of the island, as well. It might even be a sort of energy resource. The core, so to say."

"Then that means... Of course!" Nami slapped herself on the forehead, then whirled around. "Usopp!"

"Eh?" The long-nose looked up at her from underneath Sanji's foot, surprised. "W-what...?"

"Do you see that orb there?" She pointed behind her back, then something clicked, and she waved her hand dismissively, sighing big. "Sanji-kun, you can let him go now."

"Right away, Nami-swaaaan~!" The cook quickly spun away from Usopp to move next to the redhead, almost drowning her in the hearts floating around him.

"As I was saying", Nami continued, not having to look down now as she spoke as Usopp was finally able to stand. "Can you see that strange orb there?"

The sharpshooter grumbled as he dusted off his overalls, then pulled his goggles onto his eyes and turned into the direction indicated by the navigator.

"Ah, yeah, that round, shiny thing, right?", he asked, narrowing his eyes in concentration.

"That's right. Shoot it down", the girl commanded curtly.

"Wha- Shoot it down? B-bu-but how? What if it explodes and burns us to ashes, too?"

"It is worth a try", Robin added. "Since the odds are high that we will have to stay here forever if this wind goes on, no matter what we do."

"You aren't scared, are you, oh great Usopp-sama?", Nami teased, hands on hips and tongue sticking out, while Sanji kept pirouetting around her, blabbering something about how he loved Nami-san when she was mocking.

"What was that? Scared? Me? D-don't make me laugh!" The sharpshooter let out a (somewhat shaky) laughter, taking up a triumphant pose, which turned out to be exceptionally strange due to his quivering arms and legs. "I'll shoot it down so fast you can't even say 'tangerine'!"

"Tangerine", Nami said, rolling her eyes.

"I didn't mean it like that!", Usopp protested, waving his hands about with a frustrated groan, then quickly strode down below deck, over to the cannons. "I'll show you...", he grumbled, his irritation winning over his fear just barely.

The navigator just followed him with her eyes as his bandana, too, descended under the plank floor, a cheeky grin on her face.

"Victory."

The grumpy marksman stepped to one of the cannons facing towards the island, then turned the sooty cannon barrel towards himself and started preparing it for firing, just like he had many opportunities to practice it before. First he covered the air vent to prevent the cannon to blast into his face. Oh yes, he had some unpleasant memories involving burnt nose and hair that didn't let him forget that step... After that, grabbing a rod with a sponge on its end, he cleaned the barrel before filling it with gunpowder. Then he placed the cannon ball inside, adjusting it with the other end of the rod, and turned the cannon back to face the water. Finally, he took the cover off the air-duct and stuck in the fuse quickly. He keenly observed the distances through his lenses, and set the cannon barrel into the right direction, willing his hands to stop their shaking.

"Here comes nothing..."

After taking a deep breath and lighting the fuse, he backed away a few steps and hunched down, plastering his palms onto his ears and murmuring a prayer. This was followed by the inevitable boom, and the cannon ball began its flight towards the target, slicing though the air with a loud whistle. He didn't even dare to turn around when the ball reached its final destination; it hit the mystical orb spot-on, blowing it to smithereens with a loud bang and a big flash.

"You did it! It hit!", Nami cheered loudly.

"I did...?", Usopp repeated monotonously as he finally took a look backwards, then he noticed himself and a wide grin spread cross his face. "I did it! Of course it hit!", he boasted, stepping onto the wheel of the cannon with one foot as he folded his arms on his chest, but he screeched loudly as the firearm rolled out from underneath him, leaving him to wipe the flooring splendidly with his nose.

The energy of the exploded globe, set free due to Usopp's spectacular shooting skills, zigzagged up in between the clouds in the shape of many vivid, backward-striking lightning streaks, trailing over every frill of the stormcloud-coat. Then silence. Hardly longer than a heartbeat, but utterly undisturbed, terrifying, dead silence. Then loud thundering and strong gusts of wind took its place, sounding much like the death-rattle of a horrid monster, while the previously wide layer of clouds began to pull together and condense. Strong wind and the stirred sea water assaulted the sides of the Merry, tossing the small caravel violently from side to side, threatening to throw it over. An especially forceful shove almost made Luffy fall from the figurehead, too, evoking a loud yelp from the dark haired youth as he held on tight, winding his rubbery arms around the ram's head.

"H-hey, Nami!" Usopp climbed back up to the deck, and almost fell over again as the ship suddenly tipped over to one side, but he successfully avoided another rough landing by grabbing the railing. "It's just gotten worse!"

"Of course", Robin said before the navigator could reply. "It is perfectly logical, if we think about all the energy that must have been released. The only remaining question now is whether it will be of use to us or not."

"It's all or nothing...", Sanji mumbled through clenched teeth, chewing on an unlit cigarette.

Nami lifted her worried gaze up to the sky once again, as if in attempt to force the gathering storm to let them pass with her eyes. She was intently searching for changes in the weather despite the whirling wind and the slapping of waves, gripping the wooden railing of the Merry firmly, not wanting to let the smallest of hints escape her that could get them out of this mess. At first she didn't even notice the change in moisture in the air, nor the first drops of rain, thinking it's due to the havoc of the saltwater around them. But the situation became clearer for her as the shower grew stronger, one heavy drop of rain following the other as they hit the planks.

"Rain...?", she wondered for a moment as she lifted her arms above her head as a makeshift shelter.

But Sanji was there immediately to offer the redhead his suit jacket, and he was about to take off his shirt to give it to Robin when the ebony haired lady rejected the offer, going to get their raincoats from their cabins instead.

Now that Nami thought about it, the weather had been this terrible all the while during their stay here, but not a drop of rain had fallen until that very moment. After all the eerie things they witnessed on this island, it wouldn't have surprised her in the least if that orb of light had somehow kept the precipitation locked inside those clouds for millennia on end. Though the stray and rather unbelievable thought elapsed her as she noticed a slight change in the direction of the wind. A favorable one.

"Usopp! Sanji! To the helm!", the navigator turned to them, whipping her arm back. "A strong wind is coming from the island. Let's nab it!"

The two men nodded and turned on their heels to rip the door of the lounge open, almost getting in to a fight in the heat of the moment about who should grab the horned head of the helm first.

"Ooooh, we're finally going? Woohoo!", Luffy cheered and clapped the soles of his flip-flops together, his good mood not faltering one bit even as he almost slipped two or three times while jumping around on the figurehead, the surface slippery with water.

"You'd better get off there, Luffy!", the redhead warned the looney captain. "A huge gust of wind is approaching! You'll fall into the sea!"

"It's okay, it's okay!", the straw hat waved her down with an ear-to-ear grin, proceeding with his cheers. "We're going, we're going!"

"Then, at least, hold on to something!", Nami called to him, but seeing that she was completely ignored by the rubbery pirate, she heaved a big sigh, and went back to examining the sky.

It turned out that it was a very good idea to send both the marksman and the cook to take care of the helm, for that blast of wind that arrived within mere seconds proved to be so strong that it took all of their energy to maneuver the ship as Nami called for them to through the deafening storm. Robin barely arrived on deck, clad in her long, purple-black raincoat when the ship began to move, to drape an similar, orange colored one over Nami's head and shoulders and then make the captain slip into his own red one amidst all his cheering, shouting and jumping around. To Sanji's greatest lamentations, Miss Archeologist's duty was to watch the back-sail and keep it from moving uncontrollably, since all other hands were preoccupied on board (for the redhead had navigating to do and Luffy refused to leave his "captain's seat"), and she had many of spare hands in store to fulfill the task.

And soon they needed all the hands they had to hold themselves steady, the wind all but blasting them away from the shores of the terrifying island, Luffy ending up flying right behind the Merry with outstretched arms as the hull cut through the waves. The navigator could finally breathe easy as she saw the small piece of land disappear into the mist behind them, hoping they would never-ever have to set foot on it again.

oXo

"How is he?"

Chopper glanced up from over the various test-tubes and open medical books scattered in front of him on the table to look over to the blond man, who just descended the ladder into the men's bunk. Sanji looked back at him with a serious and a tad worried expression, balancing a tray with a large pitcher of water, a glass, a bowl of steaming soup and a spoon on his left palm, which the doctor had requested earlier.

"He's still unconscious", the ship's medic replied and lifted his right forefoot, motioning for the cook to put down the things he brought next to the sofa Zoro lay on. "Just put it over there. Oh, and not too close to him, he moves around a lot."

The blond nodded as his gaze shifted over to the green haired man, and he stepped closer to the sofa to carefully set the tray down on the floor. He immediately had to pull it farther away from the spot he had decided to place it, however, for the sick swordsman stirred suddenly, almost tipping the whole thing over with a sudden wave of his arm. Sanji glared at him for a couple of seconds, making sure the asshole was really unconscious, or else a well-aimed kick in his ugly mug was in order. But his anger faltered as he saw Zoro's eyebrows knit and teeth clench as he emitted a strained groan, grabbing at his sweat-stained shirt on his chest fiercely.

"He's in severe pain", Chopper noted, lowering one of the tubes he held as he glanced over to the ill with worry. "His fever won't go down and he has muscle cramps every five minutes."

"Did you find something out about that shot he got?", the cook stood, leaving the tray at a safe distance this time.

"Not yet", the small doctor sighed. "I'm still running tests with the liquid from that dart, but so far it's unlike anything I've ever seen before", he frowned, sloshing the dark blue colored tincture he was working with around a bit in the thin glass tube.

"I see...", Sanji muttered, his eyes fixed on his suffering nakama, and he found his own brow relaxing somewhat as Zoro's strongly gripping fingers fell lax again, the cramp probably passing in his body.

That virus, or whatever it was, must have been strong enough to kill a normal person if it did the stupid Marimo in like that, he thought. And really, one would have to clobber the damn brute until he bled rivers on the verge of dying to make him lie in a sickbed, unconscious. It seemed so unreal. The blond didn't remember seeing Zoro in such a bad shape before, ever, not even when he received that ridiculously long scar. At that time, he had just laid there, barely moving, as if in a peaceful sleep. Well, he did sleep through it, actually... But this time, the suffering was so obviously showing it was painful to watch. And although he would rather have had his hands chopped off than admitting it, the thought made him worry.

The damn asshole might be in deep shit this time...

Adding to that, he kept remembering the moment the green haired man collapsed right before him, and how he actually saw something or someone who could have been responsible for his crewmate's current state, but couldn't do anything to stop it.

He clenched and released his jaw, tapping the floor a little with the toe of his dress shoe as his irritation started to fester again. He tried to think that he wasn't angry at himself, but rather at that bastard who shot the fucking dart in the first place. After all, it happened so fast, there was nothing he could have done. It wasn't. His. Fault.

Standing around here doing nothing didn't exactly help, either, so he quickly turned to face Chopper with a low growl, pushing these disturbing shitty thoughts into the back of his mind.

"Need anything else, Chopper?"

"That's all for now, thanks", the reindeer replied after having written something down on a sheet of paper. "I'll feed him and try to give him something for his fever."

"Well, call me if you need me to hold the shitty samurai down again", Sanji offered, trying to lighten up the atmosphere a little, heading towards the ladder again.

"Thanks, Sanji", Chopper nodded, then returned to his research.

The blond was just standing under the hatch when Luffy came crashing down on him, the two of them landing with a loud thud on the floor. Or, more precisely, Sanji landed on the floor face-down, and the straw-hat on top of him.

"Sanji! Sanji!", the raven haired captain chirped, jumping around on the cook's back. "The deck is super slippery now! Come see, it's so cool!"

"Get off me, shitty rubber!" The fairly annoyed chef whirled around, kicking the younger man to the other end of the room.

"Watch it, you assholes!", Chopper screeched angrily, holding onto his fragile medical equipment.

"Sorry~", Luffy laughed, emerging from beneath some pieces of a wooden barrel he had just shattered with his landing.

"I was on my way up, you straw-brained retard!", Sanji stood, straightening his suit jacket, then started to climb up again, avoiding a skidding Usopp on his way to the kitchen.

"Is Zoro awake yet?", Luffy scurried over to his first mate on all fours, peeking at him from up close and poking his forehead with a rubbery index finger. "Zoooooooro, wake up! Let's play!"

"Stop that!", Chopper was there instantly to whack the goofy captain in the head with one of his thick books. "He's very sick! And NO, that's not yours!" Another whack, this time aimed at the straw-hat's greedy hand that was reaching for the cooling bowl of soup.

Though, the gluttonous pirate didn't give up on the food, so Chopper had to hit him some more, making his lips swell hilariously and making bumps upon bumps appear on his head before returning to mix some medicine for Zoro, not even paying attention when the other uttered a barely audible "I'm very sorry".

The captain remained there to watch as the reindeer-doctor carefully fed the soup mixed with some powdered medicine to the fallen comrade, his face pulled together in a pout, partly because he couldn't have the food, and partly because he started to get bored, Zoro unable to go play "slippery-tag" with him. After the tiny doctor went back to the table to proceed with his work, the dark haired youth scooted closer to the swordsman.

"It's okay, Zoro", he spoke to the quivering man in a low voice, smiling. "I took revenge for you."

He then patted Zoro's chest rather harshly, making the green-hair cough and groan, which was yet another successful way to anger Chopper, resulting in the ship's medic chasing the air-headed captain out of the boys' bunk and around the deck with a whole lot of screaming and broken objects, until an angry Nami "silenced" them with her iron-fist.


A/N: Okay, Candies, here it is, finally! Chapter 2! Goodness, I've been sitting on this since February! O.o Have I mentioned that I'm a slow writer? And school usually kicks me where it hurts, so... Yeah, college sure can suck.

I'll take the opportunity to thank everyone who has read and reviewed my (thus far still short) widdle fic, it made me grin like a freaking idiot each time~! So thank you all, vuw you very much~!

About some questions, then:
1. What happened to Zoro? Hmm, can't tell yet, babes, would kill the plot big time (and not because I'm a sadistic, angsty biatch, nooohohoho~). But it won't be long now, I promise~
2. Where's Chopper? Right here! xD I missed the little guy too~
3. Robin×Nami? Err... Well, looks like my sense of nakamaship turned out to be too strong and suggestive. Sorry, dearies, I'm not really into yuri, so... No, chances are veeery slim for this pairing. *apologetic bow*

So then, Dearest Reader, please feel free to tell me what you think of this brainspilling of mine so far. (And you're permitted to kick me in the arse if I'm slow on updates, too~ xD). Until next time~