A/N: Finally, finally, I know, I know. But seriously, this chapter was hard for me to get through. Not sure why. A slight lack of motivation, I guess. But it's here! Are you on the edge of your seat yet?
And, ugh, I suck at writing horror. Somehow or another, this story ends up less scary and more of an adventure story... Which is probably where the lack of motivation comes, really, because even though the story is going where I want it to, it's not... going the way I want it to. And my apologies. I will seriously try to put back the horror aspect of the story to the best of my ability.
Though I'm wondering if that's just because, well, it's the Straw-hat Pirates I'm writing about here. They know no fear ;)
But until then, enjoy!
There are things you won't understand
Until it's a moment too late
The ring master fights without his hands
And with his smile, lies in wait.
"What happened here?" Suki murmured quietly. Kneeling beside the hole, which is maybe three feet in diameter, she looked up and down the dock, as if the culprit was still near. But there's nothing. She frowned deeply.
"What I want to know is what happened in town," I told her, leaning against a dock post. I kept my weight off my foot, but it still ached. Why couldn't Chopper give me a medicine to take the pain away? "Let's go. We'll get Franky and Usopp to investigate it later."
She glanced up at me, then moved her gaze to the ship. "Are you sure it'll be all right?"
I sighed, pushing myself away from the post. "Let's just go, okay? Before I find the need to do this on my own and put myself further into pain."
"If you're in pain, then let's just go back –"
"Suki!" I spoke sharper than I intended, but it brought her to attention. I pressed on, "I don't know what's with you, but I do know you're acting strangely. I'm not some idiot, like Luffy, nor am I completely oblivious, like Luffy, so don't think I wouldn't notice your change in attitude when you wave your hand dismissively and say 'it's nothing.' Because Luffy would notice. And he's not the brightest star in the sky."
"I thought you loved him," she said dryly.
"I do," I nodded. "But, let's face it. He's –"
"An idiot," she finished for me.
"So will you tell me what's going on?" I swung back to the subject at hand before she could even think to change it. "What's got you so… agitated?"
She was silent for a long moment, gazing off into the distance. I followed her gaze to the black sea. It rose and fell, the waves crashing into the docks with a weird gentleness. A sound like that was usually a lullaby to me. Tonight, it made me feel alone and stranded. Because except for our breathing, it was the only sound I heard. The skies were a bit cloudy, and the moon was still growing fuller. Six more nights until the full moon, I realized as I stood there.
"It's this island," Suki broke the silence. "It's… changed since the last time I've been here. And not in a good way."
"How could you tell? You haven't taken a step off the boat since we arrived," I pointed out. I still felt on edge in the quiet of the night. I found myself scanning the port of the town, searching for any kind of life form.
There was none.
"I can feel it. It's this… vibe the island gives off. When I was little, it was so loud and pleasing. But now…"
"I don't even know what to think of it…" she drew back into her shell.
I bit back a sigh. "Nonetheless, let's go find out what's going on. Maybe we'll run into someone who can explain the situation on the way."
Without another word, she came, slipping an arm around my waist to support me as we trekked on towards the explosion. We kept an eye out for someone to ask, but as we walked, there was no one. No lights in the houses. No sounds on the street. Nothing except for our slightly exerted breathing and footfalls…
I stopped, bringing Suki who was aiding me to a halt as well.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Do you hear that?" I strained my hearing. But there was something amongst the silence of the town.
I waited a moment before shaking my head. "No, it must be nothing."
I didn't hear anything else after that, all the way to the scene of the loud explosion. The building there was in absolute ruin. Burning rubble littered the streets. Dust and smoke clung to the air.
"Luffy?" I called into the darkness, cupping my hands around my mouth. "Zoro? Sanji? Luffy!"
"The only people who would disrupt a town like this," I let my hands fall to my side. "Why hasn't anyone showed up to assess the damage? Shouldn't people be standing around, gawking?"
"So you would think," Suki frowned, glancing across the street. "No one in the windows…"
"Luffy, Zoro and everyone should have run over here the moment the explosion happened… Hey!" I caught a glimpse of a small child, running away. I hurried after her, ignoring the pain in my foot.
"Wait, Nami," Suki chased after me. I'm surprisingly agile for being injured, and I made it to the corner the girl disappeared around before Suki grabbed a hold of my arm. "What are you doing?"
"There was a girl," I began, but my voice wavers when I didn't see her anymore. Where did she go?
"There's something weird about this island." I turned on her. "Do you know?"
"No," she shook her head.
And I believed her.
I could see the five of them from where I crouched in the shadows, but I was certain they couldn't see me. They stood around the fallen building, not sure what to make of it.
"Do you think he caused it?" the one with the long nose asked.
"The mad ringmaster? Or the jerk from the tent?" the blond one snorted.
"Whichever," long-nose shrugged.
"Considering they're the only two we've seen, there's a pretty good chance that it's the two of them."
"We don't know if it's just the two of them," the large man said. The more I looked at him, the more confused I was. He was oddly shaped, and a mechanical arm popped out of his shoulder and wiped his forehead.
"You think there's more?" long-nose asked.
"There has to be," the one with the swords agreed. "What do you think, Luffy?"
The skinny man was the only one who hadn't spoken yet. He walked over to the building, crouching down to examine it.
"Luffy?" A woman's voice faintly reached my ear. I swung my head in the direction that it came. So did the skinny man.
"Nami?" he stood up.
"Luffy?" the swordsman spoke up again.
"You didn't hear that?" the skinny man asked.
"Hear what?" the blond replied.
"Never mind," Luffy's gaze traveled the surround area.
"Should we go back to the ship?" Long-nose asked. "Wait to see if anyone comes back?"
"We should go back to the tent, and seek out the ring master," the swordsman spoke strongly.
"We should figure out who is underneath this mess," Luffy nodded to the ruins.
"Someone is –"
"Well, there's a person under there and a person over there," Luffy points in my direction.
"C-Come out!" Long-nose shouts with fake confidence. I could hear the quivering in his voice.
The swordsman's hands flew to his katana instantly, but didn't draw them immediately. The big man scanned the area until his eyes fell on me, but he didn't make a move either. The blond just sighed.
"It's the man from earlier," the big man said. "The one from the tent."
I sighed. No point of hiding if they knew where I was. I stepped out of the shadows and into the light. Still, I kept my distance.
"You," the swordsman turned on me, gripping his swords tighter. "You know something, don't you?"
"Even if I did, it doesn't mean I have to share the information," I leaned nonchalantly against the wall of the nearest building.
"Oh, you'll share it, all right…" he growled, taking a step forward. But the skinny man stopped him.
"He's fine," Luffy said. "But the guy under here –"
"Should we rescue him?" the long nosed man shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably.
But no one had to move to uncover the man. He burst through the very top of the pile of burning stone and wood, giving a stretch before beginning to descend towards their group.
"How did he survive that?" Long-nose murmured.
"We're in the New World, and you're still surprised?" the blond shook his head. He glanced between me and the other man as he took out a cigarette.
"I don't know him, if that's what you're wondering," I told them.
"Who are you?" Luffy asked the man as he reached the ground.
"The man that will send you to the other side," the man grinned as he swung at Luffy. As his fist went through the air, it changed from skin and bone to iron. When it hit the skinny man, his head went flying.
Literally –flying through the air, though his neck was still attached.
Ah. Now I recognized him. The captain of the Straw-hat Pirates… I didn't recognize him without that stupid grin on his face from the posters. Not that I ever paid much attention to the posters to begin with. I had been content in my way of life, without pirates and without marines, traveling between islands, trying to prove to my family that I could see the world without being either. But when I had come to this island a year ago, something sunk my ship… and every time I try to leave, whether boarding another ship or trying to buy my own, invisible chains held me back, and unusual circumstances kept me from going.
I've heard stories of the Straw-hats. But it didn't matter how great they were. They wouldn't be able to get off this island either.
How many nights have I spent in this other world? How many times have I woken up in the real time and space, only to not remember this one?
It'd be the same for them.
The straw-hat's head came flying back. The five of them were distracted by the other man. I'd use this opportunity to hide away, like I always did.
Because in this world, I was the best at hiding –I'd proven it eleven times already. I wouldn't stick with the Straw-hats, because groups never lasted. One-by-one, they'd be picked off.
And that was an end I refused to meet.
I watched him walk away. Cigarette to my lips, I took a deep breath. Then exhaled. Then I threw the stub onto the ground and put it out with the toe of my shoe.
"So, what should we do?" Franky asked me.
"I think we should avoid the ring master," Usopp inputted, his eyes on Luffy and the iron fisted man. I had my back to them, but I could hear Luffy's laughter. Tetsu Tetsu fruit had nothing on him.
"Until we know more, I agree," Franky nodded. "And I want to know what the other man has to say. Because he does know something."
"Of course he does," Zoro stands just a little aside, his arms crossed over his chest, but his eyes watching Luffy.
"First, we should go and get Luffy something to eat at the ship," I glanced at the clock tower in the center of the town. Not that I needed to check the time to cook for the captain. He was always hungry. "Then I think the best place for us to start looking would be the circus tent. We'll probably find out the most information there."
"Mm," Franky agreed.
"But we should avoid the ring master," Usopp emphasized using his hands as he spoke. "He's dangerous! Crazy! He talks in rhyme!"
"We will avoid him. But if he comes across our path, you can be sure I won't let him get away," Zoro's jaw is stiff. He's angry about Robin-chwan, I'm sure. But I'm worried about her too –and Harumi-chan, and Nami-swan, and Suki-san. I'd be the one to bring down the ring master if it came down to it.
"Hear that, Luffy? Sanji's going to make you dinner," Franky called out. "Hurry up and let's go eat."
"Eh? Food?" Luffy swung a punch, sending the man back into the pile of rubble. The four of us waited for him to come out again, but he never did. Luffy grinned as he approached, feeling much better after letting off some steam. "Well, let's go."
In the Tent
The crowd oohed; the crowd awed.
Amazed by the man who turned himself into iron and shot out of a cannon. Astonished by the trapeze artists that flew through the air without a net below them. Shocked by the man who let himself be swallowed by a huge snake, only to appear as if by magic on the back of a tiger jumping through a ring of fire.
Oh, the mystery behind the acts.
Oh, the horror behind those smiles.
And the crowd would never know
That it wasn't merely just a show
For the seven nights before the full moon,
Hides a dreary, dreary doom
One by one, friends will disappear
And from them you'll no longer hear
But that's only to be expected
When it's the facts you've neglected
And when Envy pulls you in tight
You can bet you're in his sight.