To say Nami was surprised to be standing beside herself would have been a massive understatement. Colossal even. But she was. Nami was standing just behind Chopper, staring at her own body on the ground at her feet. Logically Nami knew if this was real she was probably dead, which meant her heart wasn't beating, but she could have sworn her blood froze for just a second.
She managed to make her throat work. "Chopper can you hear me?" It came out as mostly a whisper, so she tried again. "Chopper?"
The reindeer didn't acknowledge her. He kept doing chest compressions, tears running down his face the harder he pressed. "Don't give up yet Nami," he begged.
"Chopper I'm right here!" Nami yelled in his ear. Abruptly realizing that, even if he could hear her, having her spirit scream at him wouldn't be the most reassuring thing in the world, Nami bit her lip in effort to keep quiet. She watched as Chopper battled to keep her heart beating for what seemed like an eternity.
Then Chopper sat back with a sob, tears flowing freely down his face.
"I'm sorry Nami," he whispered. "I failed you."
Nami knew he couldn't hear her, but that didn't stop her from trying to comfort him. "You did what you could Chopper. This isn't your fault." She reached out to pat his shoulder, only to have her hand pass through him. Nami quickly jerked her hand back.
"I'm sorry," Chopper cried.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
Zoro had seen her body.
He was covered in blood, but for once it wasn't his. Nami knew enough about the human body to know that there was no way Markus could be alive after losing that much blood. But he was still standing, smirking at the furious Zoro and tossing Luffy and the others around with magic. Usopp was hidden in the trees, pelting the magician with shots, but none of them even touched him.
Tamlin ran over to Chopper, passing through Nami- which freaked her out a bit- and kneeling beside her body. His fingers began to glow blue, getting brighter as he muttered under his breath. A shield raised around them, deflecting the bolt of magic Markus had shot at them.
Zoro separated Markus's head from his body with one swing. The body flailed for a moment, then knelt down and started groping around for the head. Sanji kicked it as hard as he could, smirking in grim satisfaction when Markus's cheekbone folded like wet paper under his heel.
"I'll kill you," Markus promised the cook.
"Talking head!" Luffy shrieked.
Zoro studied the body with eerie calmness before slashing four times as he blurred past. Markus's arms and legs popped cleanly from his torso, his hands diving for the swordsman. Sanji paused for a second at the sight of a leg coming at him, but managed to dodge the kick at the last second.
Nami thought of Buggy and meeting Luffy for the first time and almost smiled.
"I'll bury your body in as many pieces as I can slice," Zoro growled, blades flashing ominously in the sunlight.
Suddenly, everything stopped. Markus's head had frozen mid laugh. Luffy was lunging for a hand, teeth bared like he was going to bite it. Usopp's slingshot had just seconds before let out another shot- the ball was still in the sling, but Usopp had already let go. Sanji was in midair, leg extended, almost connected with the disembodied limb he was aiming for.
Nami blinked. "What the hell...?"
A hand squeezed her shoulder, and although the touch was gentle, a scream ripped from Nami's throat. She jumped up, then away, the Clima Tact in her hands before she turned to face whoever or whatever had grabbed her. She might be dead, but she could still put up a hell of a fight!
Then it registered who was standing in front of her.
"Karina," Nami breathed. Dead. I'm definitely dead.
Karina looked exactly as Tamlin had described her. Pale, white hair, eyes more blue than Nami thought possible. She was dressed in obvious pirate garb from back in the day. Long trench coat, pants tucked into boots, button up shirt. She even had a big hat with a fluffy white feather stuck in the brim- the kind of hat Luffy would be jealous of.
She smiled kindly at Nami.
"Hello Nami," she said in a voice that carried across the distance easily. "There's no need for introductions is there? We already know each other."
"I guess," Nami said suspiciously. "But how do you know me?"
Karina's smile turned sad. "I know every pirate Markus has cursed. He does this to as many pirate couples as he can find, but you're the first to break free."
Nami glanced pointedly behind Karina. "At a cost."
"Magic has a price. This," she gestured to Nami's body, "is only temporary if you make a deal with me. I can fix this, but you have to agree to help stop Markus."
Stunned, Nami could only blink. Karina wanted Markus stopped? Surely she didn't mean... stopped. Not for good. Nami studied the other woman for a minute, then slowly lowered her Clima Tact, carefully thinking everything over. Magic was costly after all, and if she messed up even once it could not only kill her, but everyone else too.
"What kind of stopped do you mean?"
Karina glanced at Markus, grimacing at his bloody face frozen in a sinister smile. "If you manage to defeat him, he will be killed," she said quietly, eyes full of pain. "It's not what I want, but he's not the man I remember. He's not the man I fell in love with. He must be stopped, otherwise he will keep cursing and killing innocent people."
"But Tamlin said that no weapons can kill him."
"Every deal has a loophole," Karina told her. "It's like your curse; you knew without remembering and weren't killed."
"Right. And the loophole in my deal will be...?"
"Smart girl," the other woman remarked. "The loophole is out in the open. If you can't stop Markus, you stay dead. Tell me how you plan to stop him and if the plan will work, you wake up."
Nami glanced at Markus, looking away just as quickly. A bloody grinning head was creepy. She risked a glance at Zoro, but found she couldn't look at him for too long either. His eyes were completely blank, devoid of any emotions. Nami shivered, unused to Zoro's eyes frightening her.
"What's his loophole then?"
Karina stayed silent, prompting a sigh from the navigator.
"I have to figure that out for myself. Perfect."
"The deal Markus made was this: No weapon in the world can kill him. You friends have already figured out that he can be hurt, but once he pulls himself together, it will be like nothing happened. There won't be a scratch on him."
Which explained how the magician was still alive. One of Markus's legs had already reattached itself. It was covered in blood but as far as Nami could tell there weren't any wounds, and Sanji had surely broken the bone a few times. Not to mention Luffy should have left some teeth marks.
It was also a problem. If weapons couldn't kill Markus, that left bare hands or something that couldn't be counted as a weapon. But anything was a weapon if used correctly. Hell, Nami's old staff had been nothing more than a piece of wood, but she had still managed to hold her own.
Then again if bare blows worked, Sanji and Luffy would have had some effect by now. Neither of them used weapons- they were weapons. Luffy's entire body was one giant weapon (albeit a weird one), and Sanji could crush boulders with a single kick. Surely between the two of them they could stop Markus.
"If no weapon in the world can kill him, what would be considered a weapon?" Nami asked.
Karina grinned. "You're thinking along the right lines, but the wrong part of the deal."
"So there is a weapon that can stop him?"
Karina nodded. "Yes, but not one that anybody usually uses, or thinks about using. Magic has an effect on him, but he's set up a kind of shield around himself to block any of Tamlin's attacks. Swords, slingshots, fists, kicks, none of those will stop him."
"Then what can?"
"Think about the deal," Karina encouraged.
"Helpful," Nami huffed.
But she mulled everything over, twirling the Clima Tact absently as she studied Markus's body. There was a weapon that could work on him, but not one any of them had. No, not one anyone usually used. The weapon wasn't really the important part anyways. Was it? Nami didn't think so. No weapon in the world could kill him, so unless the mysterious weapon that would work was in her possession, it didn't really matter.
Nami studied her Clima Tact, running her fingers along the seams that separated each part of the staff. Usopp had invented this for her, writing instructions for a party item. None of them ever expected for the Clima Tact to be such a formidable weapon.
Maybe what would work on Markus was something that wasn't considered much of a weapon. Something easily written off or forgotten about. Karina had said the weapon was one no one usually thinks about using. Kind of like Usopp's slingshot; no one really considered a slingshot a weapon, but whenever Usopp decides let a shot loose opinions change quickly.
"Two hundred years have passed since I sailed the Four Blues," Karina said suddenly, startling Nami out of her thoughts. "The world has changed so much in that time. I hardly recognize it anymore. The people are different, the ships are different, and the pirates themselves are different." She laughed. "I never would have guessed that that one," she nodded at Luffy, "is your captain."
Nami almost commented that a lot of people think that way, almost told her that nearly everyone they met was surprised that a goofy kid with a straw hat was in charge of a ship and a crew, but then Karina's words registered in her head, rolling around and then falling into place.
"It is a new world," she said slowly, "with new pirates, new marines... and new weapons."
Karina studied Nami for an endless moment, nodding once and smiling softly. "That's it."
Nami gasped, her body jerking so suddenly and so violently Chopper and Tamlin both shrieked. She blinked rapidly to clear the tears from her dry eyes, wiping the blood from her nose and ears as she sat up. No sooner had she gotten her bearings then did Chopper tackle her in a fierce hug, his little body shaking under her arms.
"You were dead," he sobbed.
"Just for a little while," Nami assured him, hugging him briefly. "Now come on. We have to stop Markus."
"How?" Tamlin demanded.
"Actually I have to stop him," Nami amended, standing. "Can you cover me so I can get close?"
Tamlin remembered to close his mouth after a minute. He nodded, slowly standing beside her. He still wasn't sure how Nami had went from dead to perfectly fine in five minutes, but then again he was over two hundred years old and had no soul, so he didn't really have room to talk. And if she could stop Markus, he would do everything in his power to help her.
Markus had been his brother once, but the monster pulling himself together in front of him was nothing more than an enemy that needed to be stopped.
Tamlin gathered his last resources of magic. "I can buy you thirty seconds. Don't waste it."
But Nami was already sprinting through the trees, hitting the clearing just as Tamlin's magic zinged past her, hitting the almost whole again Markus in the back of the head. He froze where he stood, ice glittering off his skin and spreading from his fingers to his toes. Sanji stuttered mid kick, his visible eye going wide when he saw her. Markus caught sight of her as well and sneered.
"Nami," Zoro breathed, relief and shock coursing through his voice.
She only had fifteen seconds now- not enough time to assure everyone she was alright just yet. So she pulled out her Clima Tact, leaping into the air and praying she was right. Lightning crackled through the air, the edge of the Clima Tact spun, and Nami jammed the entire bolt of lightning into Markus's middle, driving everything upwards into his heart.
Lightning shot though his entire body, exploding out his fingertips and mouth, tearing his chest apart as it escaped. He gurgled once, eyes rolling into the back of his head, then he folded, falling at Nami's feet. He didn't get back up. The arm that was still detached went limp in the grass, inches from Luffy's ankle.
Nami didn't even get a chance to turn back to the others before Zoro had swooped her up in his arms, his mouth desperately latching onto hers. He pulled her as close to him as he possibly could, relishing in the steady feel of her heart beating against his chest. He knew he should make sure Markus was really down for good, but Nami was alive and she was in his arms and there was nothing more important than that.
"Nami you're okay we were scared are you a zombie now?" Luffy yelled as he tackled her from behind.
Nami laughed. "I'm not a zombie," she promised. Her captain looked a little disappointed.
Usopp emerged from the trees, an exhausted Tamlin draped over his shoulders. "Why did your Clima Tact work when nothing else would?" he asked.
"Because they didn't have anything like this two hundred years ago. Lightning sure, but not a weapon that could control lightning." Nami explained. "It's a brave new world. New weapons and all."
Usopp thought about that. "So... because I invented that, it worked?"
"Then this was a victory for the Great Captain Usopp!"
Sanji raised his visible brow. "How do you figure?" he asked, lighting a cigarette.
"I made the Clima Tact!" Usopp declared. "If I hadn't done that, we couldn't have stopped Markus, so we won because of me."
"Actually we won because Nami asked you to make the Clima Tact," Zoro said. "So this victory's hers."
"It's everyone's," a new voice said. Tamlin spun around so fast he stumbled and crashed into Luffy, who fell onto Chopper. There was a beat of silence as Karina eyed the tangle of limbs and hooves on the ground before she started to laugh. Tamlin managed to find his footing, scrambling upright to face his would-be sister-in-law.
"Karina... how?" he managed. "No, never mind I don't care. Why? Why didn't you come back for him?"
Karina lost her smile, suddenly looking older. "There was a storm," she said quietly. "I fell overboard trying to save my first mate. We both drowned." She gently touched Tamlin's shoulder. "He was the only one who knew about my plans to return for Markus. My crew had no idea, so they didn't know to tell anyone. They buried us on the next island they came to and kept sailing under my name."
Tamlin grasped her hand. "But you're here now... how are you here?"
"That's your fault. When Nami died you tried a Spirit Summoning spell right?" Tamlin nodded. "Well her spirit was still around, so I came to help her out. And to take you with me when I go back if you're ready to go."
Chopper looked up at Tamlin. "Your body is perfectly healthy," he told him. "You could probably live out a natural life now if you wanted."
Tamlin shook his head. "I think I've lived long enough." He turned to Nami, still secure in Zoro's arms and not looking like she was going anywhere. "One last thing though. You were dead for a few minutes, so technically the curse was used up. You should be able to remember now."
Nami frowned. "I don't remember any more than I did earlier."
"I can help with that," Karina said. She tapped one finger gently against Nami's forehead, brow furrowing in concentration. Nami's eyes glazed over for a second. She slumped forward in Zoro's arms, snapping upright in the next second with a faraway look in her eyes. "I've had a couple hundred years to study this curse. I can undo it in my sleep."
"I still think it'd be cool if she was a zombie," Luffy muttered, plucking his hat from the ground.
Tamlin tipped his head towards the sky and laughed as white light enveloped him. He gave the Straw Hats a smile, and then he and Karina were gone. Luffy carefully approached the spot Tamlin had been standing in and waved a hand through it.
"That's so cool!" he declared. "I wanna learn magic!"
Zoro glanced at the woman in his arms. Nami titled her head back to look him in the eye, smiling when their gazes locked. She pressed a kiss to his lips then stood back, looking at him expectantly. Zoro had no idea what she was up to, which probably meant he was in trouble, but he couldn't stop the smile.
"Well?" she asked.
"Well what?" Zoro replied, gathering her in his arms again, holding tight when she squirmed.
"It's our three year anniversary. Where's my gift?" Nami blinked and glanced down at her hand. "Actually, where's my ring?"
"I threw it overboard."
"You threw my diamond engagement ring overboard? Out to sea?" She knew there had to be a good reason behind it, but she overdid the outrage a bit just to see him squirm.
"I didn't want you to find it and remember!" Zoro defended somewhat desperately. "Do you remember?"
Nami gave him a smile. "Everything. We should get going soon though. It's a long sail to Cocoyashi and I think my sister's waited long enough to get me in a wedding gown. After you get me a new ring," she added with a light kiss on his lips.
He smiled and kissed her again. "I'll get you the biggest damn diamond I can afford if you never scare me like that again," he promised her in a whisper.
"Wedding!" Luffy cheered. "Cake! Will you have a meat cake?"
Sanji clocked him on the head. "You idiot! Who has a meat cake at a wedding?"
"I'm gonna have a giant tower of meat instead of cake when I get married," Luffy announced.
There was exactly five seconds of silence before Usopp made eye contact with Chopper and lost it, clutching his stomach in effort to calm himself, laughing all the harder when Nami's giggles overpowered her and Zoro began to chuckle. Sanji snorted, coughed, and then began to laugh so hard he was barely making any noise at all. Chopper became a fuzzy heap on the ground, rolling in the grass in his hysteria. Luffy had no idea what was so funny, but his crew was happy, so he secured his hat to his head, tilted his face towards the sky, and laughed right along with them.