"Any last words?"

The words were but a whisper as thunder rumbled angrily from the sky. The sky itself was filled with ominous dark clouds, and lightning shot across the sky. The words, sneered by a marine, were directed at a young man, chained and helpless on a platform before a large crowd of people.

Angrily, he glared at the man, poison on his tongue, but unable to speak through the blood he continued to cough up. The square was silent, for the most part. All that was heard for a few moments was the gurgling, choked sound the man made as he spit out a mouthful blood. Tears streamed down his face, only adding to the pitiful sight.

Many of the local citizens' eyes flooded with tears as well, holding their hands over their mouths to prevent the sounds of pain to escape. They had grown up with the boy, seen him turn from a clumsy, ridiculous and reckless child, to a strong, albeit still reckless and childish, man. They were fond of the boy, and seeing him like this... it hurt.

Many of them had cleared the square to stand aside, many more ditching the area, but a few standing to watch. Among them were a dark haired woman, a bandit, and the mayor of the city. Although they could do nothing, they would be here until the end.

"You killed them," He finally growled, his voice breaking off into another body wrenching sob. "You killed them- you, you..."

He never thought he would see this day. He had hoped he would never have to, but even he could not deny the sight that lay before him. He shook restlessly in his bindings, cause the sea stone shackles to dig into his wrists, and the sea stone blade to imbed itself deeper into his back.

He could handle the pain. After everything, the physical pain - the blood, the wounds, the scars... they were nothing to him. Like a mosquito's bite. Small and unimportant. Like always, he could pretend it didn't exist, even when it began to itch and swell. Until now, he had simply swatted whoever dared bite him. Now, he was helpless. Death awaited him.

He could handle his own death. He really could. He had fought for his dream until the end, going through no easy task in his attempt to reach his goal. For that, he could easily accept his own fate that would meet him on this platform.

Eight bodies before him had been reduced to nothing more than ribbons of blood, skin and bone. The only thing that remained clear were the looks of pain buried beneath layers of blood. It was something he wished with all his might that he could stop, that he could erase from his mind. This couldn't possibly be happening... He wasn't supposed to regret!

"You killed them," he sobbed to himself, and the marine simply sneered at him. "I couldn't save them... I couldn't... why did they... I wasn't supposed to regret... why?"

There was a pregnant pause that the marine broke as he tsked softly. A well aimed kick to Luffy's ribs had him wincing. "How touching..."

Shouts echoed throughout the clearing as the man gave the signal. It was so small, a flick of his wrist, that would end Luffy's life where he stood. The blades pressed against his skin, into his body, and his mouth fell open as the men ripped the weapons out as quickly as they had pierced him. He had failed...

Another shaky breath, and blood poured from his mouth as darkness tainted his vision. His eyes fluttered shut softly, the pain fading slowly and being replaced with a numbness that spread through his body. Soon... he would be with his nakama, he was sure.

"So very young..." The voice shook him, but not as much as the gentle hand that reached forward and cupped his face. Long, delicate fingers forced his face up, and despite never wanting to open them again, his eyes found the woman. A small, forlorn smile graced her lips as she watched him with curiosity. She was observing him. "So much pain."

The square had fallen silent. It seemed she was not of his imagination, nor a hallucination in his last moments. She stood on the platform, her form flickering between opaque and a shimmering translucency.

A warning shot fired though the air, but it simply passed through the woman with a water like ripple. She didn't even turn to look at who had fired. There was nervous shuffling, another order, and another round of shots fired. Much like the first one, they simply passed through her frame. The firing ceased, and the soft ripples faded.

"So irritating," the woman murmured, and with a flick of her wrist, all those that had fired were thrown backwards by an invisible force. All without looking away from Luffy, who was still very much alive. His eyes were wide as he stared at her. "They are fools."

Dark eyes bore through him and he found himself lost in the deep ocean colour. He opened his mouth, spitting up another mouthful of blood at the woman's feet. She glanced at it with raised eyebrows before stroking his face carefully.

"I can take it away, you know," she murmured. It was nothing louder than a whisper, but it seemed as though she had shouted it across the increasingly crowded square. She leant before him, her form shimmering with the movement. Her breath was cold on his ear as she leant forward... "I can give you another chance to save them."

Luffy's eyes widened.

"What would you give up for them, I wonder?" The woman purred, stroking Luffy's face thoughtfully. "To see them walk with the living again...?"

"Anything," He said immediately, too quickly. The words came with a fresh mouthful of blood. "Everything."

The woman's smile turned triumph, as if she had just won a war. She pulled out a cloth, wiping his face free of blood and tears and she knelt in front of him. His eyes were still wide, fixed on her as she gently brushed hair out of his face. He was mesmerized. Not by her undeniable beauty, but by the promise that her words held.

She leant in once more, so he could have felt her breath on his ear. As it was. he much too wrapped up in his own numbness and the possibility - just a possibility - of his nakama's survival.

"Would you give up your body?" the words came in a soft, alluring coo. He nodded, his eyes falling shut to the lullaby that was dark, meaningless words. There was no way he could bring them back... surely, no power in the universe could restore those broken bodies to their lively forms... But he nodded. Even if they could not see it, he wanted everyone to know exactly what he would give for his nakama.

"Would you give up your soul?" She had withdrawn from his ear and the words came as she kissed his closed eyelids. Again, he nodded, his eyes fluttering open with a renewed sense of hope. A weak flame, burning through a raging storm, but a flame nonetheless. He would give everything he had and more. He would save his nakama.

"Would you give up your dream?"

His dream. For so long, he had wanted to be king of the pirates. It was his dream from the moment he had met Shanks. To be free. But now, looking down at the torn bodies of his nakama, the word dream meant nothing to him. In that moment, his friends lives, their aspirations... they were what mattered above all else. He nodded one final time.

"Everything, I will give everything."

There was another pause, and even the sky seemed to have stopped rumbling in its anger. And then there was laughter. It wasn't cruel, per say, but it was not a happy, warming laughter.

"My name is Aiyume. I will help you save your nakama, Monkey D. Luffy but after..." She lowered his voice - not that it mattered - so that only he could hear. Her words sent a chill down his back, but he didn't flinch. "You will belong to me. You're body, your heart, and your soul will be mine. Do you agree?'


His voice was sure now, less shaky. If this was what it took to save his nakama, so be it. It was his fault it had ended like this, without their dreams being reached. He had promised that they would achieve their dreams, that he wouldn't get in the way and then this had happened... He was going to fix it, no matter what it cost him.

"Take my hands, Luffy."

Luffy took a deep, shuttering breath. His body, pierced by the execution blades, had died. His arms where stiff and heavy as he raised them. It was only his soul, still caged in the body, at least for now, that moved him. Soft hands took his with gentleness, her thumb rubbing across the back of his hand.

Then, everything went dark.