Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece /:
Summary: On this day, in the Twelfth Grove of Sabaody Archipelago, the pirate crew led by Captain Monkey D. Luffy, the Straw Hat Pirates, were completely and utterly defeated.
Notes: I'm in a slight OP kick, and I saw this amazing video on youtube of this scene, which made me want to rewatch this ep, which in turn begged me to write it out. So far, I haven't seen anyone write it, (then again I haven't looked that hard). In any case, I wanted to put into words the utter grief and destruction that episode has (god it was heartbreakingly beautiful) and I hope I did it justice. (:
Read, enjoy and review.
The End of the Straw Hat Pirates
The silence is deafening. Usopp stares transfixed, horrified, at the spot where Zoro was supposed to be. The place Zoro was just a couple seconds ago.
His heart is pounding.
"Z-Zoro..." Usopp is trembling, mouth gaping and throat making keening noises of disbelief. His hand is clutching tightly at his weapon, and he wants to shake his head madly in denial because he can't- he can't process this.
It's not true… it can't be...
The ground at his knees, the ragged breaths that are painfully moving his chest, the deafening silence that's swallowing the clearing—something, finally, breaks.
"D-DAMN YOU!" Usopp screams out what has been bubbling up in the thick tension, lashing out in blind panic and anger at Kuma who hasn't made a move since Zoro's banishment.
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO ZORO?" he demands, foolishly, ragingly, even though he's terrified that he could be next, even though tears are threatening to fall from his eyes. "HE WAS... HE WAS JUST... RIGHT HERE!" Usopp bellows, ignoring or maybe just not noticing the way his voice broke.
Luffy looks up from the ground then. Slowly, his breath heaving long quiet breaths that are almost inaudible over the heavy hammering beating loudly at his chest. He looks over to Usopp and Kuma, his expression kind of blank, kind of hinged. Kind of crazy. Like if he couldn't believe what was going on.
"Zoro...?" Luffy asks, softly and confused as he takes in the picture. Something is missing.
"Z-zoro?" Luffy asks again, insistently, firmly, even as his eyes widen and his pupils dilute and the shock begins settling in. His voice is trembling but he doesn't notice. His hands are clutching at the grass, shaking as he stares transfixed at Usopp's furious expression, Kuma's unmoving solemn face, and then at the ground where his First Mate was supposed to be.
"Zoro?" Luffy's voice is close to snapping, his desperation leaking into his words because he can't hear anything but the rushing at his ears right now—not Usopp's desperate demands, nor Robin's quiet ragged breaths at his side—and before he knows, his voice is crying loudly and needily.
"Zoro!" His vision shakes, his body shudders with intensity. "ZORO!" he screams out into the clearing, breaking, breaking the silence, the denial, the horrified expressions of his crew. He is voicing their loss, but more importantly, his own. His cry draws out his anguish as his chest fills with an unfamiliar emotion—grief—and it seems to last forever.
At that moment, Robin's frozen body regains movement and her neck swivels away from this scene and towards the terrifying roar that calls from behind her. She has only a second before she grabs on to Luffy's unmoving body and jumps away from where Chopper's huge, out of control body slams down a fist.
Robin and Luffy land painfully a few feet away, and luckily their enemy does the same in the opposite direction. Chopper remains in the middle of both, howling as if he understood what had just happened a couple seconds ago. As if he too knew that one of them was now missing. Robin doesn't think about it. She tries to calm down their usually sweet and harmless nakama. "Stop, Chopper! Don't be reckless!" she tells him, her voice having taken the same desperation as everyone else's, her chest hurting just as deeply.
Luffy joins in Chopper's howls with one of his own, as he raises himself from the ground with shaking arms. "Zoro... where the hell are you?" he demands, angry at everyone, even at Zoro, but mostly at himself.
In the background, Chopper continues howling, striking blindly at the enemy, sometimes at the ground, unaware of his actions, unaware of everything but the madness in his mind.
Some feet away, Nami and Franky stare in horror towards where Usopp is as well. Nami's face is frozen and shocked. Franky is the one who voices their confusion and disbelief, before he turns to stare at Luffy's dark furious expression.
Said Captain has snapped out of his grief and has turned his eyes towards the enemy he had been fighting before, eyes full of unrestrained rage as he addresses the axe-wielding guy. "Hey! What'd he do to Zoro? Where'd he disappear?" he demands with a tight voice that expects a good answer.
"I have no obligation to answer. I'm the most tight-lipped man in the world," Sentomaru tells him coldly, before continuing regardless. "They say that anyone who gets blasted off by his paws is sent flying through the sky for three days and three nights, though I'm not sure whether it's true or not."
Luffy makes a choked noise in his throat as he stares at the other with an unreadable expression on his face.
"Nobody except the person who was sent flying knows where to, though. But it definitely won't be on this island or anywhere else where you might meet them anytime soon. They might end up on the edge of some distant sea," the marine tells him blandly, uncaringly, his hand moving to clutch readily at his weapon.
"What?" Luffy hisses heavily, before moving to look back to where Usopp has finally stood up. Sanji also begins to move from behind Usopp, clutching at his shoulder in pain and breathing with difficulty next to Brook as he forces himself to look at Usopp, and in turn, Kuma.
Usopp is still speaking, looking braver than he's ever looked before as he snarls at Kuma. "Say something, you damned freak! Where'd you send Zoro?" he bellows at the impassive man, and Sanji ignores the pain that lashes all over his body as he too demands, "What's the hell is going on?"
Finally, Kuma moves from his spot, approaching the three in silence. Usopp takes a step back but then readies his weapon, and although his voice is shaking, his knees are not. "Don't come any closer!" he growls, trying to ignore the bubbling panic at his chest when Kuma continues his approach. "Damn it... Stop! Don't come any closer! Stop it!" Usopp cries out, feeling angry and helpless and still grieving and confused over Zoro's disappearance. "I've got 8000 subordinates, you know!" he tells the other almost desperately, ready to shoot at him, and completely unaware that somebody else is about to attack him from behind.
Sanji notices it then, and looks at the Pacifista in horror for a split second before yelling out a warning. "Look out Usopp! Behind you!" he warns him and wishes he was strong enough to push the sharpshooter out of the way.
Usopp looks back at the warning and his eyes are widening, but he can't move. He hears Brook calling out as well, but nobody can move at that moment.
And then, no one really understands what happens next, but then Kuma is there, telling the Pacifista quietly and blankly, "Do not interfere," before banishing him too.
The whole clearing is bewildered at what's happened.
"He even got rid of his own comrade...?" Sanji's jaw slackens in disbelief and the three stare transfixed and in confusion as Kuma turns around to face them again.
"What are you doing with your allies, Kuma?" Sentomaru cries out angrily in the distance.
And then, even louder is Luffy's voice. "Run, the three of you!"
His yell breaks Usopp out of his shock, although he is still trembling as he turns to look at his Captain. "Luffy!"
"Just run away, everyone!" Luffy addresses every member of his crew, his voice serious and his fingers trembling. He can only think of Zoro, Zoro who was there, Zoro who is now gone. Zoro, Zoro, Zoro, Zoro-
Something inside of him breaks.
"We'll think things over once we're safe!" Luffy declares, his voice sounding so defeated even though he's struggling to keep everyone else still safe, still alive. His eyes are maddening to look at, all wide-eyed and as if he couldn't hear his own voice. But his heart is the one screaming now. With his loudest most desperately authoritative voice, he orders his crew, "GO!"
Everyone snaps into movement.
Franky grabs Nami's unmoving arm and pulls at her gruffly. "Hey, let's go!" he tells her, doing his best to push back the grief he hasn't felt since Tom-san's death.
Nami's legs feel like jelly however. She can't seem to move a muscle. "But…Zoro…!" she protests, still staring in Usopp's direction with horror.
"Like he said, we'll think about that later!" Franky growls at her, but really, he's trying not to fall on his knees just as much as she is. "Let's go!" he reminds her again, and then swallowing back their tears, they both turn around and begin to run.
Usopp takes a shaky breath before turning to Sanji, trying to help the blonde man to his feet. "L-let's go! The beam only grazed me! I'll carry you on my shoulder, so let's hurry!" He urges the other, raising the cook's body and easing the blonde's arm over his shoulder. His body is shaking with strain, but there's no time to complain at this moment. His instincts are screaming at him to flee, but his heart refuses to leave anyone behind.
Kuma takes a loud, threatening step forward that has Brook flinching before he dives in front of his two teammates. "Be careful, you two!" he warns them, spreading his arms out protectively, although every bone of his is aching and brittle. This would be a perfect time to point out that he shouldn't be feeling this grief, nor this sudden protectiveness, because how could he if he doesn't have a beating heart? He almost begins to laugh deliriously at his own joke, mostly because he's doing his best not to break under this feeling of helplessness all over again.
Usopp stops trying to help Sanji and stares at Brook with wide eyes. "Brook!" he calls out warningly, as though knowing what the other was planning. "BROOK!" he cries out again, because the skeleton is unmoving in his vigil and Kuma's paws are moving forward again.
Everything goes into slow motion once more. Brook is impassive and unflinching before Kuma, and his last words ring deeply into everyone, etching themselves into their memories, into their hearts.
"I shall protect you! Even if it costs me my life!" Brook declares as he stands up to his feet, his voice loud, determined. He looks very much like Zoro did, just a few seconds ago, and everyone who is watching this moment happen again is breathless and still.
Kuma's paw is coming closer, his intent obvious, his expression as unmoving as ever.
And then, as if Brook has just realized what he said and couldn't help it (and he really couldn't), he adds, "…Even if I am already dea-"
He's gone before he can finish his last joke.
"BROOOK!" Usopp cries out in anguish, his body taut although now at his feet. Sanji is half-conscious and dropping from Usopp's shoulder. Luffy is staring at them blankly again, as unmoving as the rest. Slowly, his expressions begin to tremble again, and there is a slump in his shoulders, as if the weight that was there suddenly got heavier.
Sanji's back on his own knees somehow, and clutching, pulling at his hair furiously. "Damn it.. What am I doing?" he berates himself, unable to erase the image of Zoro, of that idiot marimo disappearing, and now Brook—
"Two of my comrades just vanished before my eyes!" he screams out, filled with such a rage that it allows his pained body to move once more, although it is towards Kuma that he turns to. "Dammit!" he growls, ignoring how Usopp has fallen to the ground behind him, ignoring the sharpshooter calling out his name in a way that's demanding him to listen, but Sanji won't.
"Get going, Usopp," Sanji declares, lowly, pissed, and determined. He doesn't see the way his words make Usopp cringe as if Sanji had kicked him in places that were not meant to be kicked. The way Usopp narrows his eyes and tenses angrily and with outrage as he yells to the cook, "Don't be ridiculous! We're leaving together, Sanji!" The sharpshooter growls, promising himself that once they're out of here he will punch Sanji's face hard for saying that. He's not the only one that- that-
Usopp can't even finish the thought.
But Sanji doesn't listen. He doesn't care.
"Damn you…" Sanji heaves angrily and with so much rage before launching himself towards Kuma, ignoring Usopp's protests, ignoring his Captain's words.
"Stop it, Sanji!" Luffy screams out, and his shoulders are shaking more than ever, pained and hurting and helpless, wishing that everyone would just god damn listen to his orders and run!
"Damn Paw-Bastard!" Sanji strikes at the bear-looking Shichibukai with a fury, but his kick is blocked by the other's paw, bouncing him off. Sanji lands a few feet away, his body crashing hard through the stone walls of a nearby building. Luffy is screaming again, desperately, "SANJI!"
Usopp is breathing heavily and with panic as he turns his gaze from Sanji's fallen form back towards Kuma. He's never been more scared in his life before. He feels like his heart is about to stop as he lies helplessly on the ground, looking up at the towering Shichibukai. He tries to voice a threat, a plead, anything, but all his mouth does is tremble in fear as tears and snot begin to fall from his face. "D-don't come any closer!" he demands shakily, his voice small and so tight in his throat. "Don't come any closer!" he cries out in a strangled sob and moves to attack the other, shooting him and struggling to run again, but it's only a few steps away before he falls back to the ground. He's left to scramble backwards, his hand never losing its desperate grip over his weapon as he shamefully begins to beg. "Don't come any closer…" His voice begins to waver, although he's still shooting at Kuma again and again, despite the fact he knows it will be ineffective. "Dammit..!"
Kuma takes a step, and then another, coming closer and closer, and Usopp continues to shoot over and over until all he can see is the smoke that's released from his pellets, which is terrifying and comforting at the same time because at least in the smoke, he can't see Kuma's face.
Sanji is struggling to come back to his feet again, inching forwards towards his teammate on his knees and elbows, breathing heavily because he can hear the naked fear in Usopp's voice—he knows what's going to happen next. "Usopp!"
The sharpshooter is immobile as the smoke clears and Kuma's face is right before his eyes, his body bending over him with his paw stretched out. Usopp knows what's going to happen next. He's screaming without even knowing, so loudly and so desperately and somewhere far away he can faintly hear Luffy screaming as well, telling him to run.
But Usopp can't move anymore. Usopp is gone.
"USOPP!" Luffy cries out, hearing something inside of him snap once more, leaving him chocking on his own breath because he didn't understand, why, why was this happening? Why was everyone leaving him? Why were they being taken away?
Zoro and Brook and Usopp were gone, and who's next?
Who's next? Luffy thinks somewhere deep inside of him, hating himself for even contemplating that someone else was going to be gone soon.
"No...!" He gasps out, his eyes clenching shut as his whole body rocked in pain, a pain that had nothing to do with his physical injuries.
Sanji was on his feet again, breathing heavily as he forced his body to keep on moving.
"Sanji?" Luffy questions the blonde, snapping out of his grief as he notices his cook's growls. There is a hunger in Luffy's stomach that has nothing to do with food at that moment, and his arm is shaking, clutching at his stomach as he sees Sanji charge towards Kuma again in a blind rage.
"Damn it to hell!" Sanji bellows, leaps, seeks to injure Kuma in some way because Sanji can't handle the deep, deep hurt that's forming at his chest.
"STOP IT, SANJI!" Luffy is screaming again, heaving, dying, because not a second later Sanji is gone too.
"Even Sanji…" Luffy finds himself mouthing in disbelief, and it's almost like he's going to throw up because he feels so shocked and out of sorts. Everything hurt. Everything…
"What's… going on…?"
Luffy can't move a muscle, so transfixed he was, staring at the spot where all four of his nakama had disappeared.
"What are we supposed to do?"
His best men, his family was gone.
Gone before Luffy could do anything about it. Gone because they couldn't do a single thing.
Gone before he could save them. Gone because Luffy hadn't moved in time.
"No way…" Nami's shoulders shake. "Everyone's…" Her voice breaks under her soft, but unmistakably pained sobs. Franky closes his eyes, his toes curling in frustration as the scenes continued to replay again and again in his mind.
Slowly, Luffy gets up to his feet. His fists are clenched tightly at his sides, shaking unrestrainedly as he begins moving forward, slowly but determinedly. "You bastard!" he growls out, narrowing his eyes, glaring and hurting and hating as he activates his Gear Second.
His body pumps, reddening and tensing under the stress of his Gear, his blood rushing along his veins, through his anger and adrenaline, adding, feeding his rage.
"Luffy!" Nami screams out then, because she couldn't bear to continue losing more of her nakama. She wants to protest, to keep screaming, but Franky was clutching at her arm again, pulling at her, telling her to keep going. And so they run.
And Kuma follows after them.
He was in front of them in a flash, making them halt to a stop, and Nami gasps loudly, whimpering in terror, and it was that sound that makes Franky snap into action. He takes off the skin glove of his fist, the metal glinting as Franky begins to launch his Strong Right fist into Kuma's face.
Luffy is yelling again, furious and outraged, and then he's off, in a speed faster than the eye could see, leaving Robin without another thought. Robin, who reached out to him, feeling numb and full of foreboding. "You can't, Luffy!" she tries to warn him.
But Luffy is beyond reason. "Gomu Gomu no Jet Pistol!" The Captain moved to attack, his body itching and crying out to him to kill, to protect. But he is deflected without much thought. His fist ricochets, although his body snaps forward, allowing him to reach Kuma. But he was only there, right there in front of him, for a mere second, before his whole body is recoiled by the impact of Kuma's paws.
"Luffy!" Franky calls out to him worriedly, feeling stunned, and it was the last thing he is able to say before Kuma reaches him too. And then Franky was gone.
Robin isn't sure who, out of all the ones that were left, screamed that.
Nami is out of her mind, whimpering and immobile, terrified because everyone was gone, and she is going to be next.
Kuma reaches her before she could even think another thought. Her face is streaming with tears and it is her mouth that was moving then, screaming, desperately, "Luffy! Help!"
And then she was gone.
Luffy feels numb. There is a strange emptiness in his mind settling in as he breathes, gasps, deeply. Trying to fill his lungs with something that wasn't there anymore.
The scenes play over and over in his mind again and again without stop, faster than he could blink. Something inside of him is shattering and there was no way to stop it anymore. He's breaking, empty, with nothing else but rage filling his every breath. His expression is becoming maddened, livid. Veins are protruding in his arms, his face. He wasn't in control of his body anymore. Luffy charges forwards towards Kuma again, yelling and screaming and growling, moving to punch at the other again with nothing else but his bare fists, not even conscious of himself anymore.
Kuma dodges with ease and Luffy falls on his face hard, but the pain he feels is nothing compared to the one inside of him.
Robin's voice calls out to him worriedly, and somehow, it reaches him. Grounds him. There was still something left to protect, he reminds himself, trying to come out of his mindless raging daze.
At that moment, Chopper begins to howl again, calling everyone's attention to him. Robin turns around to look at him with a pained expression, biting her lip as Chopper howls again, and as if he was conscious under the maddening strain of his transformation, he turns to snarl at Kuma.
Luffy struggles to his feet, struggles because his body feels so heavy with guilt, disappointment, and pain, so much pain. He looks up just in time to see Chopper's monstrous body aim a deadly punch towards Kuma, but Luffy knows it will be futile.
No…! He gasps audibly, reaching out a hand towards his nakama, wanting to stop this moment, wishing time could just freeze. "CHOPPER!" he shrieks, shrieks because he's too late once more.
Luffy has to use every fiber of his being not to break down at that moment. He swallows back his tears, shaking with restraint as he bows his head wearily, unable to look at the place he had last seen Chopper, before… before…
"Chopper…" Luffy cries out softly, weakly, his body slumping down once more and threatening to collapse again. He doesn't think he could take anymore of this.
Kuma's steps are loud in comparison to his silent, unmoving expression.
Luffy couldn't look up from the ground. He couldn't bear to.
Robin takes a step backward for every step Kuma takes forward.
Luffy feels blinded.
His heart is pounding, aching, screaming, hurting. He feels so weak. None of this felt real.
"Stop it…" he murmurs, only hazily acknowledging that Robin has broken into a run. Kuma's steps, timely and deliberate, sound like a countdown.
Luffy couldn't breathe. He could barely think.
His shoulders shake.
His voice is getting louder, and there was an unmistakably painful sob struggling to break free from his throat.
Quiet gasps escape him, unwillingly, as Luffy clenches his fists and finally, finally breaks.
"PLEASE, STOP THIS!" he cries out, tears falling unbidden as he ran, needing to stop this, needing to keep at least his last nakama safe. Anything, please, anything, god please help. Stop.
Robin stumbles, beginning to fall, as she sees Luffy near, as she sees Kuma's paw coming closer.
Luffy is almost there, so close, screaming, desperately, numbly, "ROBIN!" as his hand reaches towards her. Robin reaches back to her Captain, calling out his name, feeling so mind-numbingly scared, and their fingertips are so close, almost touching.
But she was gone then, and it was as if time finally, mockingly, froze.
The world is a dark, dark place. Luffy's eyes stare blindly ahead of him, his arm stretched out towards absolutely nothing, his breath leaving him, his mind snapping.
Pop, went the bubble. Snap, went the last string of his sanity.
Time unfroze and Luffy stares blankly at the ground, unaware of when he had fallen. His body shook, his arms trembled. Nonononono. He thought over and over, each thought a spasm of its own. ZoroBrookUsoppSanji FrankyNamiChopperRobin. Gonegonegonegone everyonewasgone.
Luffy cries out in frustration, bawling and hurting as he claws at the ground, hatehatehatehating himself for being so weak, thrashing and pounding the grass in fury, wanting to hurt everyone, wanting to hurt himself. His chest, his body, his muscles, everything aches and cries and he wants it to stop, he wants it to stop. Luffy smashes his head over and over into the ground, needing to feel something else, something different. Needing to drown out the hurt and helplessness he feels. He clutches at his head, digging his nails painfully into his scalp, trying to erase the images of his nakama disappearing before his very eyes. I couldn't do anything! Luffy sobs and sobs and doesn't think he could ever stop. Nothing could ever fix this pain, which burns every fiber of his being like nothing ever had before.
"What…" he whimpers, trying to still his shaking body as his tears seep into the ground under him. "What is wrong with me?" He sobs loudly, his eyes clenching shut and his mind overflowing with memories.
It had only been a few days ago that they were laughing, eating and drinking happily!
Luffy's body shakes as he tries to stifle his grief. Why…Why! He gasps shakily, his mind forcing him to see their disappearances again, and again.
Chopper… Robin… Franky…
"I couldn't even…" Luffy struggles to keep steady, although his tears continue to spill into the ground and his voice trembles with pain. "I couldn't even save a single one of my friends!"
Luffy could barely think anymore, so filled he was with emotion. Faintly, somewhere, the countdown began again. Kuma steps closer over Luffy's helpless, broken body.
"You will never see them again."
Luffy turns, raging madness in his eyes, grief in his mouth, loss in his clenching fists. His throat lets out a shriek of indescribable emotion, but he does not move from where he is. Kuma's incoming paw doesn't leave him frozen, but the grief, the unending grief that he feels, does.
And then Luffy too was gone.
On this day, in the Twelfth Grove of Sabaody Archipelago, the pirate crew led by Captain Monkey D. Luffy, the Straw Hat Pirates, were completely and utterly defeated.