Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Zoro dreamed of the man before he was yet again awoken by the rapping at his door. The painter scrambled to it, deftly kicking the empty tin dish back under the bed. His drowsiness faded and he recognized the gentle tapping. Only one person he knew would knock with a regal air. Zoro smiled, realized he really didn't need to hide the mouse dish. He opened the door and peered down to meet the large amber eyes.
Namé was only eight but she was strong willed just like her mother. Her bright orange hair settled on her little shoulders, gleamed and sparkled like a halo. Today she was in a yellow and orange plaid patterned one piece with lace sewn along the edges of her sleeves. If she had the sudden whim, she probably would do a fancy spin to show how puffy her dress flowed up by the slightest wind.
Zoro crouched to his knees and grinned, "What an odd hour to arouse me, princess."
He and Little Namé shared a game of Princess and Knight; she being the princess and he was her knight in shining armor, or a slave in chains, depending on her mood.
Namé put her hands on her hips, a habit she learned from her mother apparently, "Mother's making breakfast and asks you to come over." It was typical for Belle Meré to prepare breakfast when Zoro painted their flat. It was like an advance payment. Besides, who could work on an empty stomach?
Zoro brought up a hand and looked kindly at her, "Lead the way."
The Windmill Family's breakfast was eggs and sausage with a glass of warm milk, a delicacy for the poor painter. Filing his stomach with enough protein and calcium, he returned to his room to gather his paints. Little Namé tailed after like a baby duck following after its mother.
She pinched the bridge of her nose when she stepped into the creaky room, "Augh, it smells! You should clean your room sir!" Namé raised her head to sniff Zoro, "You smell just as worse!"
"Thank you for your brute honesty princess." Zoro replied quietly, but he had to agree with her. He did need a bath, but later. With his back turned away from her, she dove into a pile of dusty papers and excavated for Zoro's treasured sketchbook.
Little Nami was the first and was the only person who looked through the sketchbook, until yesterday. The painter had tried many attempts to hide the sketchbook from her but she was like a bloodhound and found the book in one strike. Today she had done it again and after shoveling through the heap of used papers with her hands, she pulled out the sketchbook.
Zoro turned and nearly dropped his tools, "Namé!"
The girl ignored the man's cry and opened to the page where Zoro had worked on.
She frowned, "Who is this man?"
"Honestly, I have no clue."
"Is he your prince?"
Zoro stopped finding his brush to contemplate. He then chuckled softly, "Yes, I believe so."
Namé closed the notebook and let out a huff, "My prince is much handsome than yours. I will show you at once." The painter chuckled again. Namé held three paint brushes and Zoro's sketchbook and quickly escaped out of his room before the stench got a hold her of dress. Zoro collected the rest of the supplies and chased after her.
Namé's room was half smaller than his since their father built a wall in between separating hers and Noj's. Both of their rooms were painted in a light shade of blue and the surrounding walls were covered in adorable furniture. When he peered in, Little Namé stood by the pale dresser, the one Belle Meré had referred to.
"This one, yes?" Namé nodded. Zoro pulled up his sleeves, "What kind of flowers would you like?"
"Daisies, lilies, and tulips please."
Zoro swiftly squeezed the desired colors onto the palette, "Then daisies, lilies, and tulips it will be." Namé retired over to her bed and watched Zoro work while she flipped open Zoro's sketchbook on her lap. The child suddenly left her bed because she remembered what she was supposed to do. She tucked Zoro's sketchbook under her arm and opened her toy chest.
She called it her treasure chest and inside was mainly toys and dolls of many sorts. She dug her tiny hands inside the deep chest and brought out one large sketchbook, much larger than the painter's. She dragged the two sketchbooks behind her. When she was next to Zoro, she opened her own to a certain page. She spread it out for Zoro to see.
"This is my prince." She pointed her finger to a drawing she had drawn by borrowing Zoro's art supplies. It was a portrait of her and 'her prince.' They stood in a garden blooming with bright red roses. Butterflies fluttered about the whole picture. A tall pale violet castle towered up to the sky in the background.
Little Namé was an adventurer; she attempted to use all of the colors Zoro had, so there were two rainbows in the sky. Both rainbows had close but subtle colors. Namé in the portrait was dressed in a long puffy dress. The color of her gown was incandescent as well as the accessories. Because of her age, her art was puerile, but her ideas and dreams were powerful and alive.
The main prince was dressed in a wine red colored suit. The man's hair was jet black, the only black in the picture besides the eyes. Both the prince and princess had a large smile on their faces.
Zoro always loved this picture and examined it quietly, absorbing the lovely scenery of rainbows and butterflies. Smiling, he handed back the sketchbook.
"Your prince is indeed a handsome man."
"I told you," Namé replied proudly, "your prince looks like a pauper."
"But he's fully clad."
Little Namé shook her head, "Your prince doesn't have the air."
"The air?" Zoro knew what she was talking about since she repeated this hundreds of times, but he let her explain it again.
"Yes, the royal air." Namé informed, "All royalty have it. You can tell from afar that the person has the royal air." From there, Little Namé began teaching Zoro about real princes and how to distinguish them from common folk, whilst the painter busied on her dresser. Zoro half listened as his mind flew back to his picture. The man was older than him since Zoro left the man's hair and beard white. He had wrinkles, but he looked better the more he had it. The regal air? That was true, the man in the picture didn't have much of the air, but Zoro felt a similar power.
It was past four when he had completed one side of the dresser. Namé clapped her hands in glee.
"Yes yes! This is what I wanted! Thank you sir!" she peered at the right side of the dresser, still bare and mundane, "Are you going to finish that side?"
"Tomorrow. It should be complete by then." The painter answered as he put away all of his supplies back into his potato bag. Little Namé had placed the notebook by his bag. He picked it up by his hands and sighed sadly.
A prince huh...
Little Namé leaped out of the bed and grabbed him by the sleeve, "Would you like to eat dinner with us?" she asked with her round amber eyes shimmering. Zoro would have obliged if he hadn't eaten breakfast. Plus, he needed to do something that probably was more important.
"Thank you but I would have to decline that offer."
"-but it is a feast made for a king! Father brought home venison, ham, and steak!"
Even though Zoro was keeping his word, the thought of meat was hard to ignore, especially for a fully grown adult man who needed frequent amounts of meat, "Next time." Zoro kept a smile as he secretly swallowed his saliva.
The painter deftly collected his supplies and he stood up to leave when Namé called out, "Sir?"
"If you ever meet your prince, what will you do?"
Hats off to Namé for bringing up creative ideas; Zoro honestly never thought of that before.
"I don't know."
"Will you kiss him?"
Zoro laughed and waved his hand playfully, "On his palm?"
He laughed again, "Perhaps."
"If I meet my prince," Namé's face turned pink, "I will kiss him right here." She motioned to her lips.
"That is quite bold, Namé. He will be surprised."
"No he won't. He would surely like it because he will like me." Zoro chuckled lightly again at her forthright answers. They both stopped in their conversation when the soprano voice of Belle Meré called her to come downstairs for dinner.
She tucked her dress and she folded her hands in front of her chest, "Good night Sir Roronoa."
"Good night Princess Namé." Zoro leant down to kiss her on the cheek, "I'll see you tomorrow." The painter hastily left the flat before the rich toasty aroma of cooked venison caught up to his nose.
Zoro wandered around the edge of the road, until he spotted a horse pulling an old wooden wagon. Calling at the coachman for the ride, the painter quickly threw his potato bag on the back first before leaping onto the lopsided cart. The back was filled with fresh golden hay and he shifted some to make it into a pillow. He laid back and stared up at the sky that was once blue was slowly blushing in pink as the sun sank toward the west.
When the cart rolled along over to the vast hillside, Zoro got off, paid respects for the rider and headed off the dirt road. The painter walked through the tall green grass, bending some with his shoes. He gently brushed his fingers over the tips of the flowers that bloomed between the green fields. He kept on walking until he reached a small clear pool of water. It was surrounded by thick rings of trees and flowers. From the shades of the tree leaves, the sun filtered through subtly and the pool sparkled like crystal. This was Zoro's secret bath; only Zoro knew about this lake and maybe some forest animals.
The painter dropped his art bag at a safe distance from the water and began peeling off his clothes. Once he was naked, he dipped his foot into the lake, testing the temperature. The water was icy cold, just how it had always been. Zoro sucked in a quick breath and dove in. The cold prickled like needles against his skin but it felt good.
A tiny visitor shuffled out from the grass jungle and it was a fox cub. Zoro brought out a hand, gesturing the cub to come over. The baby fox saw no danger in the painter. It seemed that along with charming the ladies he also charmed animals as well (both he didn't know he had). It dipped its paws into the water too and then jumped in, creating small waves. When its head broke through the surface of the water, it quickly dog paddled to Zoro's arms.
The painter kept the fox cradled against his chest to prevent it from drowning as he scrubbed its beautiful coat. The fox cooed out in bliss and wiggled around on certain times when Zoro brushed over its ticklish parts.
When it was Zoro's turn to wash, the painter bent his body so that the fox could crawl and stay atop on his back. He dunked his head in the water and scrubbed mercilessly until the skin on his head felt raw. He couldn't afford any soap so this was all he could do. Plus, the little cub along with many of the forest neighbors wouldn't like soap in their precious lake.
He touched his own body, and he felt relatively clean. Maybe Namé would give an approval. He got out of the pool and carefully laid the fox back onto the grass. It ruffled up its fur like a puppy and scampered off.
Zoro pulled up an old rag he had stuck it far down in his bag and used it as a towel. While he changed back into his clothes, he flipped through his sketch. Although the sky was now dark and filled with stars, he knew where the picture was by heart. He squinted in the darkness at the man whom Namé named him prince.
A prince for him.
It sounded weird but it didn't sicken him.
Good evening, my prince. Zoro chuckled.
To Be Continued