One Day Late
A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Summary: One day couldn't make much of a difference, anyway. Features all the Straw-Hats...sort of. AU speculative one-shot. Complete.
Note: Idle speculation, really. I thought of this a while ago (before even Mindshattered) but only just now got around to writing it. A lot of One Piece is very time-sensitive...Luffy often shows up at exactly the right time to stop Bad Things from happening. But what if he didn't?
Warnings: Rated K+ for some minor bad language and a few unpleasant descriptions but, over all, not too bad. Also a few minor spoilers for Luffy's past, but nothing big.
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, One Piece or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Eiichiro Oda. The only thing that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.
"Nothing is as far away as one minute ago."
As soon as he turns seventeen, Monkey D. Luffy enthusiastically sets sail to begin his dream of becoming the Pirate King.
It is a dream he has been thinking about for years now, and a trip he has been especially anxious to take ever since his brother Ace left three years previously. He is so excited about leaving that he nearly takes off as soon as he manages to get a small rowboat to use on the sea. It is only because of the constant badgering of the Chief, and the cheerful suggestions of Makino, that he pauses long enough to load his little boat with a barrel of water and another for meat. (When he thinks about it, this is actually a very good idea. Every pirate needs meat for their sailing journeys, even the first ones).
The end result is that by the time Luffy is ready to leave, it is already mid-afternoon, with the sun starting to sink low in the sky. This doesn't deter Luffy, however (pirates can't be afraid of the dark, after all), and he sets sail-less sail to begin his journey as the future Pirate King.
The local friendly sea monster greets him.
He cheerfully greets it back, sending a powerful rubber fist straight into its flabby nose. It squeals in surprise and thrashes wildly in the water before whirling and diving into the depths, unaccustomed to fighting its dinners. Luffy is quite pleased with how much stronger he's become since the last time he fought the creature, until he realizes that all its thrashing causes enormous waves to develop, waves three times as high as his little rowboat at the very least.
Luffy's little boat capsizes, and he immediately begins sinking like a stone.
Fortunately he is still within sight of the dozens of villagers seeing him off from the harbor, and with the neighborhood sea monster swimming away for its life there is no shortage of volunteers throwing themselves into the ocean to come to his rescue. Everybody in Luffy's village knows about his particular difficulties with ocean water, after all.
He is rescued easily enough, dragged coughing and spitting out of the ocean back onto the village's docks, but his boat and his barrels of water and meat are lost (very unfortunate about the meat; it had looked really tasty). Once assured of his safety, the villagers all have a good laugh, and nobody laughs louder or harder than Luffy himself, one hand clapped firmly to his (still safe) straw hat. He wanted adventure after all, and not ten minutes after leaving he has already gotten it, so he is happy with a good start to his career.
That doesn't mean he will stay in the village, though, and finding a new boat is Luffy's next priority. Another villager offers his old fishing boat, but says he will need the rest of the day and some of the next morning to patch it up and make it sea-worthy again. Other villagers volunteer to help him re-pack rations for his new boat, once he gets it. The upshot is that Luffy leaves for his voyage to become the Pirate King a day later than he had originally anticipated.
But Luffy isn't terribly worried. After all, one day won't make much of a difference in the long run.
A few days later, Luffy is still excited with all the adventures he's managed to find so far.
The giant whirlpool had been a little surprising but very fun, Luffy recalls. Meeting that other pirate, Alvida, had been pretty amusing too, mostly because he'd beaten her to a pulp and made a new friend in the process. And even though Coby's dream was to be a marine, Luffy still liked seeing people with dreams and helping them get a little stronger to reach them.
Of course, no matter how good a friend Coby is, because their dreams are opposite, he wouldn't be a good crew mate. Their dreams would make them enemies after all. Luffy knows this, so when they reach the next island, he plans to say goodbye.
He doesn't plan to leave empty-handed, though. A good pirate needs a crew, and Luffy knows he has to start recruiting. Alvida talked about a bounty hunter after her head from the island they are going to, and Coby insists this man is an unholy terror, so naturally, Luffy wants to meet him. Roronoa Zoro, the man's name is, and Luffy decides immediately that if he's a nice guy (Coby insists he isn't, but you never know), that he'll have him join the crew.
They reach the new island in record time (because of navigating, Coby says; Luffy reminds himself to find a navigator later, or maybe this Zoro guy can do that too, who knows), and they settle down to business. Lunch, the most important thing, comes first of course. Luffy talks with Coby about the mysterious Roronoa Zoro, and about the marines, and laughs at the bewildered and terrified starts that the people around him give them. Luffy learns that Roronoa Zoro is also kept at the marine base, so he decides to stick with Coby for just a little longer, and goes to investigate.
Coby insists over and over that they wouldn't keep somebody as dangerous as Roronoa Zoro outside for everyone to see, but Coby is wrong (as he is about a lot of things). Zoro is outside, in a wide parade ground, visible from the wide path leading to the base through locked, steel-barred gates that allow the villagers to peer inside but not enter.
He is also dead, definitely dead, because Luffy is pretty sure nobody but him can survive being shot multiple times, and the body tied to a post and cross-brace is so riddled with bullet holes it's a wonder it hasn't fallen apart yet. Luffy is a bit puzzled by this. Zoro is supposed to be alive, isn't he? The holy terror of the seas, right? But Coby insists shakily that no, it really is Zoro—he can tell because of the green haramaki and the black bandana the body still sports. There is a wooden signpost driven into the dirt next to the body, and Coby reads it aloud for Luffy's benefit: it says that Roronoa Zoro was sentenced to execution by firing squad at sunset the day before, for a grave offense against the military. His body would be on display for another week, the sign finishes, as a testimony of what happens to those who disobey the law.
Luffy gives an irritated huff and glares through the bars at the body, as though perhaps the bounty hunter is just sleeping, and an angry enough look will cause him to wake up and glare back. But the body doesn't stir, just continues to hang there, and after a moment Luffy is forced to give up.
It's too bad, really, Luffy thinks to himself. He really wanted to meet this Zoro guy, and see if he'd make a good crew mate. But dead people don't make very good pirates, he guesses, so he turns his back on the corpse and, after waving goodbye to Coby, heads back to the village.
Luffy spends a full three days at Shell Town, searching all through it to see if he can find any good candidates for his pirate crew. He does make a few friends, but nobody he finds there wants to be a pirate, and he thinks they wouldn't make good pirates anyway. They're all afraid, these people, afraid of the marines and of pirates and even following their dreams. Nobody here fits what he is looking for.
On the third day he leaves, rather quickly, since the marines finally figured out he is a pirate and decide to run him out. He fights a few of them at first, but he can see how destroyed the village is getting, and how terrified the people are, and guesses maybe it'd be better if he just left. He figures the fight would have been more fun with a nakama at his side, anyway.
But there's plenty of time to find some, so after his hasty exit he sails onward in a completely random direction, not exactly sure where he is going but definitely sure that wherever it is, he wants to get there, because there will surely be friends waiting for him this time.
As he sails, he looks for food, anything edible. Sometimes he gets lucky, and giant fish come out of the water to try and eat him (he eats them instead). Sometimes he'll go for days (it definitely feels like days, he is sure it is days because he gets very very hungry) without seeing anything at all. He looks in the sky then to see if there's anything up there to eat, either. But there are no birds in the sky to feast on; the closest giant albatross is at least twenty leagues distant, and moving south as it has been for days. And always Luffy keeps going onward, searching for his next adventure.
(Luffy never knows that his erratic sailing, carried along by water currents alone, takes him right past the Organ Islands, where a vicious pirate known as Buggy the Clown wreaks havoc on an abandoned town and threatens its few survivors. Luffy also doesn't know that Buggy and his crew have been celebrating non-stop for two days, when he passes them. A thief had stolen away their cherished map of the Grand Line, but after a lot of trouble they had finally managed to catch her, a reason for celebrating if there ever was one. Buggy is not merciful with his captives, but Luffy would not know this either. In fact, only the albatross twenty leagues south of him does, from when it flew over the abandoned town three days ago; and not even the albatross knows what other hopes were destroyed the moment that Buggy Ball was fired at the unfortunate thief).
At last, when Luffy is absolutely, positively sure that he is going to die of hunger, his little dinghy is caught up in the throes of an extremely violent and highly exciting storm. Luffy is thrilled by the power of the ocean, and not terribly concerned about his own safety, though is is quite happy when he manages to wash up on an island, even if the waves also shatter his boat to pieces in the process.
He wanders for a while until he finds a village, and immediately demands food. They demand money in return, which Luffy discovers he doesn't actually have, although he is sure he did have some beri at some point. He probably lost it in the storm. Thankfully, they are a little less demanding after he takes care of the local mountain bandit problem (Luffy has never really liked mountain bandits to begin with, except maybe Dadan, and after he soundly thrashes one for knocking his hat off he is all too willing to kick the other ones' asses when the villagers ask).
Afterwards, while he is busily stuffing himself with his sixteenth plateful of dinner at the local tavern, the town's village chief comes to personally thank him for his help. The mountain bandits were keeping the villagers from harvesting their fields for themselves, the chief explains. Instead, the farmers were forced to pay tribute with their crops to the bandits in exchange for their lives. The crops are their livelihood, the chief adds, that they use to both feed themselves and trade to other villages on other islands. Now that the bandits are gone, they'll be able to earn money for themselves again.
Other villages reminds Luffy that he wants to see other places too, and his boat is still wrecked, so he promptly asks for a new one. The chief explains that they don't have any ships to spare right now, but offers to let Luffy have a ride to one of the next islands on one of their trade ships; other islands might have better prospects for a boat. Syrup Village or Ginger Town, he adds, might be good places to try. They are not well known, but reportedly have decent shipwrights on hand, or at least plenty of fishermen that might be willing to part with a boat.
"Not Syrup," one of the other villagers says suddenly, as he delivers Luffy's seventeenth plateful of dinner with a bewildered look on his face (Luffy isn't sure why he's so surprised; he's very hungry, after all, and people eat when they're hungry). "Didn't you hear, Chief? It happened about a week ago. Syrup Village got hit by pirates. I don't think anybody survived."
The chief looks grave, and gives Luffy a shrewd look. Luffy is a pirate too, after all. Of course, Luffy decides, as he starts to devour plateful eighteen, he's not the kind of pirate that would go kill a whole village. He's not a terribly moral person, but he still knows killing all those people would be a Bad Thing. Shanks definitely wouldn't have done it, after all. In fact, he didn't, when he came to Fuchia Village eleven years ago.
Still, while Luffy decides he might have tried to stop the pirates if he'd been at this Syrupy Village place, he knows he doesn't want to go there now. A village full of dead people doesn't sound terribly fun. He doubts he'll find any nakama there, and there probably isn't any adventure there either, anymore. So he takes the chief's offer for a ride to Ginger Town for a new boat instead, while simultaneously devouring plates nineteen and twenty all in one go, for an extra delicious full feeling.
Luffy continues on and on without stopping. He does manage to get a new little boat at Ginger Town, and he finds more adventures after that. There are plenty of pirates to fight, and bandits to kick around, and weird stories and rumors to follow.
Luffy is, however, starting to get a bit discouraged that he hasn't actually found any nakama yet. Luffy figures this would have been the easiest part; who wouldn't want to be a pirate, especially on the Pirate King's crew? But while he makes plenty of friends at all the villages he goes to, and with all the people he helps out, none of them have that feeling of rightness that means they absolutely have to join him. Luffy absolutely knows without a shred of doubt he'll know his nakama when he sees them, but so far he hasn't, and Luffy doesn't like that terribly much.
Still, Luffy is not about to get discouraged, and so he keeps going, drifting aimlessly in his new boat from island to island when he can, barely getting by although he is never actually aware of this fact. When he stops at islands he explores all of the villages, looking on each and every street, around each and every corner, in each and every building (he gets in trouble for this last one a lot) for the crew mates he knows are out there. He knows he'll find them, eventually.
During one such excursion through town he stops when he overhears an interesting conversation that absolutely promises a good adventure: two men are talking about a restaurant that floats, on the water, as if it is a boat, and there is nothing more exhilarating than that. After all, mixing the open sea, the very symbol of pirates, with the best food in the world? Luffy could think of very few things that would be more interesting than that.
He forces his way into the conversation enthusiastically to ask where this boat-restaurant is, because he might not be the best navigator ever but he is definitely going there. The men seem a little upset as his intrusion (although Luffy doesn't actually notice this, either), but when they realize he is definitely serious about going there one man holds up a newspaper and jabs at the front page article with a thick finger.
Baratie Sunk in Krieg Armada Attack, the big headline reads, and Luffy stares curiously at the large black and white photo on the front, which depicts a lot of broken bits of what he is sure was a ship (he remembers this from his own dinghy being wrecked) floating on the water. There are vague shapes on a few of the bigger pieces that Luffy thinks might be bodies, but the picture is so fuzzy it's quite hard to tell.
"I went there once," the man holding the newspaper says. "Best grub ever, and every one of those damn cooks was a fighter to boot. Article don't say it, but I know they fought tooth and nail to bring Krieg down with'em. But they still went down in the end."
Luffy sighs unhappily at this news; now he'll never get to see a floating restaurant-boat, or taste the Best Food Ever. The news doesn't keep him down for long, though, and after fifteen minutes he's off pestering the closest restaurant for a meal before he goes back to searching for his nakama.
Now things are spinning out of hand, moving faster and faster although Luffy can't really see it anymore. Luffy wanders throughout the East Blue from island to island, searching for his crew mates that he knows are out there, somewhere, but who are being extremely difficult by not showing themselves. Perhaps they think they are playing tag with him, and Luffy definitely likes to play tag (or any other game for that matter), but don't they realize how important this is? He needs a crew so he can become the Pirate King, and so he can help them reach whatever dreams they have, too. So he wanders, and searches, and the days flash past at increasingly alarming speeds, and the tendrils of fate warp and twist as things wrench further and further out of place.
A whale throws itself at a mountain, over and over, in an unending duel that it absolutely cannot win. It dashes its head against the rocks again and again, brings itself closer and closer to death as the gashes on its head split still wider and its skull cracks and groans under the stress.
A snowy kingdom finds itself once again under tyrannical rule as its selfish leader returns. Its people are not strong enough to fend off their so-called king's cruel attacks, not when they are sick and injured and even the most trivial of medical treatments is denied them. A lone doctor and her apprentice stand in the man's way, but two alone cannot stand long against the might of Wapol, and soon there are no doctors outside his own control.
A civil war erupts as the delicate balance in the sandy country of Alabasta is broken. Its princess has mysteriously disappeared—its people do not know she has long been slaughtered several islands away—and without her guidance the country dissolves into chaos. A warlord of the sea stands above it all, cruelly indifferent to the blood and screams of the furious and the dying. He is also indifferent to the woman bleeding at his feet, former partners in name only; double-crossing is a part of any violent game such as this, after all.
The island of Jaya witnesses a curious and deadly new weather pattern: land falls from the sky, burning, molten chunks of earth, smashing into the buildings on the island and in the water surrounding it. Above vicious lightning razes the clouds and thunder smashes alarmingly, and it is almost easy to believe a whole world is being destroyed. Some on the island whisper bitterly, fearfully, that it is a sign of the end of the world; that somewhere a god is angry, and has decided to take the land with it in a fit of rage.
The Aqua Laguna comes to Water Seven as it does every year, but this year it is the least of the peoples' problems. For Water Seven's beloved leader is mysteriously assassinated, and several of Galley-La's most valued employees go missing at the same time. Kidnap is presumed, or worse; seas are capable of hiding bodies forever very easily after all, the townspeople whisper, and foul play is already obvious. The local nuisance, a ship dismantler and a general annoyance, is eventually discovered to be the culprit. Good riddance, the people say. The man was always an indecent menace anyway, and nobody cares or complains when he mysteriously vanishes, too.
In an unnatural blackness an animated skeleton waits, and waits, and waits, living-without-living for a promise that he is sure more and more will never actually occur. Trapped in an endless circle he exists, waiting for the day he can leave and journey back, and back, and back, to meet once again with an old friend, yet never able to leave because of his own mistakes and his own weakness. He does not ever think he will leave now, though he would dearly like to; the time continues to stretch on and on, and the water starts to look more and more inviting.
And far, far away, very far, so far that the news takes months to travel and will never reach the East Blue until long after it is over, one Portgas D. Ace is caught by the marines after an unfortunate battle with the man he was sworn to kill. He wonders briefly, while facing his own execution, just how his brother is doing. If he has left on his journey yet. If he has found any nakama of his own yet. It would be a terrible thing, if the legacy of the three brothers were to die with him. At least one of them needs to survive and make a name for himself; they did promise it, after all.
But Luffy is aware of none of these things. Because all of them happen far away, and he can't see them, or understand them, or influence them at all. He is not near any of these things, any of these people, and so the panicked headlines in the newspapers and the anxious conversations of the people around them mean nothing to him.
There might, he thinks, have been opportunities for adventures in some of those stories that end a bit sadly, but those stories are over now and have nothing to do with him. He'll make more stories of his own, when he finds his nakama—and just where are they, anyway? He's starting to get a bit irritated with them, now.
So the days drag by, more and more of them as time stretches even further into his voyage to be the Pirate King. And though Luffy is starting to feel a little anxious now—this is definitely taking much longer than he had anticipated, he thinks—in the end, it won't matter too much. He isn't in a rush, after all; enjoying being a pirate is part of being a pirate, and one more day won't make much of a difference, anyway.
Well...that turned out...uh...interesting...
You know what else is fun to consider? How much the other Straw-Hats affect finding the next Straw-Hats. For example, consider that while Zoro and Sanji fight like cats and dogs, they never would have found Sanji without Zoro. Why? Because Johnny and Yosaku tell them where the Baratie is, and those two wouldn't have been friendly with the crew if Zoro hadn't been there. Weird, huh?
If you enjoyed the fic, kindly let me know what you thought of it. What was done well, and what wasn't? What did you like? What would you change? Feedback always helps a writer grow!