Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece or any of its characters.

III. The Pirate and Kuina

Roronoa Zoro died when he was a child.

He had been training extensively early in the morning by the waterfall, motivated by something that no other soul knew but him and Kuina, when he slipped and hit his head against the rocks. By the time they found him, it was already too late.

When Kuina saw his body, there was a hollow pit in her stomach threatening to consume her whole.

" You idiot!" she whispered fiercely, tears trickling down her cheeks.

A change took place in Kuina. Her father noted that she trained harder than before, long into the nights and rising early in the mornings. She took any and every challenger that came to the dojo and defeated them all. They could only watch in stunned astonishment and admiration as Kuina's name spread throughout the island.

Sometimes, they would ask why she carried three swords when at most she would only use two in each hand (her father teased her that she could try to put the third sword in her mouth). Her only reply was that she felt more comfortable with an extra sword at her side.

She told no one how the third sword was a memento for an old friend, how he tried to always hold more swords than his hands allowed him.

Soon, challenging petty thieves and rugged scoundrels on the island were not enough to satisfy Kuina's growing thirst to become the best. She said her farewells to her father and the others at the dojo (with a lingering look at a lonely gravestone with fresh flowers left everyday) and left to travel.

She went from island to island, hungering for a worthy competition. Men would mock her for daring to be a swordswoman and other women frowned at her for taking such a man-driven profession. Pirates outright laughed at her and some mocked the fact she was a woman and had less physical strength as them.

Without minding them too much, Kuina left them lying on the ground in defeat.

She soon decided who was the world's greatest swordsman and she knew in her current state, she was no match towards him. She needed to train and to find stronger swordsmen to fight against to test her limits.

And what better place to do it than joining the organization that housed Mihawk?

But her beliefs about the noble and chivalrous Marines were shattered when she had attacked a Marine's son's pet wolf form harming a child and said Marine's son tried to take advantage of her, slyly sliding next to her and pinching his lips into a flirtatious smile. She curtly punched him across the face and then defeated his men with scorn. Only when the son threatened to harm the child did she finally laid her swords down and allowed them to tie her in the courtyard to survive for a month without food or water.

Weeks crawled by and Kuina grew thinner, her skin searing under the hot sun and her parched lips choked on the dry dust.

Sometimes she saw Zoro, disappointed and spiteful. " You've gotten weak," he would tell her, sneering.

" Not weak," she would reply, shaking her head to the empty air. " Training only makes you stronger."

Then a boy with a straw hat appeared.

Kuina did not trust him. He was a pirate and pirates were a dangerous and cruel folk to be dealing with and she had more pride than to accept help from a lowly pirate, even if she was one step into her grave.

But this boy was more than untamed and true and real. He was a pirate through and through but his heart shone of daring adventures and whispered of things beyond her wildest dreams.

And his eyes were the same as Zoro's.

The same recklessness and wildness that had Kuina's heart ache again with life.

" Join my crew," he had said, grinning as wide as the oceans that beckoned her forth.

Beside him, Zoro was smiling.


Author's Notes:

It was hard to write Kuina, I personally found, because there isn't much we know about her. We know that she was a strong swordswoman and she had fears about herself and her ability as a swordswoman as she was growing. So I thought, if Zoro was the one who died, would she have more Zoro-like traits? How different would she have acted if she had lived and Zoro died? Still, my interpretation of Kuina here was entirely a speculation.