It was bright outside. Almost as if the sun's energy sparkled within every speck of the earth. A hand rested upon a boy's shoulder. The wide grin and pitying eyes looked down upon him. Suddenly, a dozen hands reached out, grabbing at the boy's head, arms, clothes, legs, face. And then it wasn't bright anymore. The boy sits in deafening silence, blinking blindly. His hands are bound. Feet are bound. Iron shackles tinkle across the floor as the boy struggles. He stops and a lone tear falls from his eyes.
"Mister, why won't you let me out?"
His fists pound on the floor and the walls. They are bleeding. The wide grin and pitying eyes still reverberate in the boy's vision. But all is dark. The boy is blind.
"Mister, please open up! It's dark in here!"
Another tear. Pounding against the walls until bruises form. He shouts. No one hears. No one responds. But then he feels a hand on his head. Hope? He winces as his hair is suddenly grappled roughly. A slicing sound comes from nearby. He shivers. What is it? What is it? There is a sudden stinging pain and coldness on his head. His scalp feels bare and cold. The people are not there anymore.
"…ther scholars say that certain people are linked in soul form and are bound to each other even after reincarnation." A woman wearing a dark blue suit and skirt stood at the front of the room, peering down her nose through her glasses at the floppy textbook lying on the podium. A silver cross shaped insignia with a blooming lily flower, etched delicately over the middle of the cross, was pinned over the woman's breast, gleaming proudly in the bright sunlight that was flooding in through the windows. The rays of rectangular yellow light spread its warmth across the classroom, creeping slowly over the students. One ray of light reached a lone boy with raven hair, sleeping soundly on his desk. He slurped up the dribble flowing from his mouth and looked up for a moment, squinting at the sun through heavy eyelids.
"A dream…?" He mumbled incoherently and then sighed contently at the warm rays of sunlight beaming over his face. He slowly set his head back down in his arms, snoring softly again.
In the distance, a low bell rung, echoing over the entire school, causing every teacher to pause in their lectures. The woman reluctantly closed the textbook on the podium shut and sighed. "All right, we'll pick up again next class." Students rummaged around in their bags, packing their things up while the teacher tried to shout over the noise of scraping seats and chattering students. "Don't forget about the exam that we will be having next class! Study well!" She frowned as her students rushed out the door excitedly, completely ignoring her, eager to go and have a good lunch. The woman picked up her floppy textbook from the podium and glanced towards the classroom. The raven haired boy, still sleeping in the rectangular pool of light, lifted a hand up to lazily scratch at his hair before returning to his slumber. The teacher shook her head exasperatedly and walked up the steps. She stood right next to the black haired boy and reached out an index finger to the boy. Then, after a sharp jab to his back, she frowned down at him and observed him jump up in his seat with fright.
"I didn't take your lunch! The answer to 12,364 times 37 is 512,784!" His shout erupted loudly from his chest as he stood up with a startled look across his face. The boy blinked for a moment and then sat back down in his seat. Then, he turned to his side and noticed his teacher frowning down at him with both hands on the sides of her hips. "Oh! It's just you, Professor!" He smiled and then peered around her, witnessing the empty classroom. "Where'd everyone else go?"
The woman closed her eyes, trying to calm the itch in her hands that wanted to knock the boy's face into a wall. "Monkey D. Luffy… you fell asleep in class again…? And why is your first response like that? And 12,364 times 37 is not 512, 784. It's 457,468!" She growled ferociously and then rubbed at her temples, "Why do you keep falling asleep in class? Am I really that boring?"
"Hah?" The raven haired boy blinked and tilted his head to the right, not really registering the woman's words. He glanced around the classroom, still curious as to why there was nobody in the classroom except him and his professor. The woman sighed and stepped back, knowing that the next thing she would be telling him would very likely kill her or at least cause her great physical harm.
"Never mind," She waved a hand at her last student dismissively, "Everyone left the class. The bell rung so it's lunchtime…" The woman trailed off as she spoke to the now empty chair of Luffy's seat. A faint puff of dust around the table was the only thing that gave evidence of there ever being anyone even there. She tried hard not to giggle as she heard the unmistakable yell of 'LUNCH!' echoing down the halls of school and then shifted the floppy textbook in her arms, smiling at the empty seat the boy had just been sitting in. Well, that was Monkey D. Luffy for you. Always so carefree and full of life… when he wasn't sleeping that is.
For most of the day, the school cafeteria was nearly empty with only a few students sitting in the seats, muttering to each other and gossiping softly about the latest rumor of couples and work to be finished by the end of the week. But once noon time came around, the cafeteria seemed almost unrecognizable. Students from every grade gathered together, teeming in through the doors, drawn to the fragrance of fresh food being served over the counters from the kitchen. They were like a pack of wolves or a pile of ants, circling the counters like vultures, nearly crawling over each other in search for their food.
Monkey D. Luffy quickly joined the throng of students, pushing his way into the people. He peered over the heads of the students and watched in shock as the last few loaves of pumpkin bread were being passed out. He pouted sadly, battling desperately through the waves of students in order to reach the kitchen counter. But it was to no avail. There were just too many people…! And it was so squishy… He frowned and scratched at his head. If only he could do something… like stretch his hands to grab the bread… The boy smiled to himself at his ingenious idea and reached a hand up to pluck one strand of black hair from his head. He drew it to his mouth and whispered softly to the hair. Then, with a sharp blow, he sent the strand of black hair into the air, dissipating in a breath of dust. Gradually, he could feel his entire body tingle. The tingling feeling was spreading from the tips of his toes to the very ends of his hair. As if a warm, pulsating energy were surrounding him. He smirked and drew his arm back, nearly hitting another student's nose with his elbow, and then he flung his arm towards the last loaf of pumpkin bread in the lunch lady's hands. Luffy laughed wildly as he watched his arm stretch out and fly across the heads of the students surrounding the kitchen counter. As the students stopped moving and shouting to watch the stretching arm over their heads, the boy hastily grabbed the bread and grinned cheerily as his arm came bouncing back to him, snapping elastically back in place. Holding up the pumpkin bread victoriously, he shouted with enthusiasm, "Yeah! I got the last pumpkin bread!"
Furious faces turned to frown at the raven haired boy, watching him disapprovingly, and the person who had originally been the owner of the last pumpkin bread glared at Luffy. He pointed accusingly at him with an index finger and shouted so that everyone could hear him. "Hey! He just used his hair magic! He just used his hair to make his arms stretch longer!" Another student crossed her arms over her chest, scowling at Luffy.
"Isn't that against the rules? You're not supposed to use your hair for trivial purposes."
Luffy frowned in annoyance and clutched the pumpkin bread to his chest, getting brown orange crumbs all over his dark blue uniform. "Pumpkin bread isn't trivial! Look at all the people who are fighting to get the last pumpkin bread!" He protested loudly, challenging anyone else to argue against him. The students scowled at him, staring at him in disgust as if he were a cockroach. Looking down on him as if he were a being that could be quickly expended and forgotten as vermin. He pouted back at them, angry at the way they were watching him. There was nothing wrong with using magic! They were all looking at him as if he were an alien. A foreigner who didn't belong with the rest of them. But all of them could all use hair magic, too. Just like him. They weren't any different…
"Out of my way...!" An irritated voice barked from the edge of the cafeteria doors. The students stepped back, forming a path towards Luffy who was standing in the midst of the students. They grinned maliciously at Luffy, knowing that the black haired boy would inevitably face the consequences for breaking the school rules. Luffy merely frowned, holding the loaf of pumpkin bread in his hands. A tall, skinny man wearing an entirely black suit and a top hat walked slowly down the path made by the students. He walked up to Luffy, towering over him. Then he stared threateningly down at Luffy from under the brim of his black hat. "You again? When will you ever learn?"
The boy merely ripped off a piece of the pumpkin bread and popped it into his mouth, chewing contently. The man grabbed Luffy by the head with his large hands and pushed him out of the cafeteria doors, leaving the students in the cafeteria to return to their hustle, feeling as though justice had been served. The tall man pushed Luffy towards a glass door roughly, nearly making the boy stumble. He smirked at the boy and plucked the bread from Luffy's hands, "Time to meet the Principal."
Luffy pouted and watched the pumpkin bread in the man's hands longingly. He eyed the man cautiously and then made a quick grab for the bread. But the man caught on quickly and lifted the bread away from Luffy's reach, glaring mercilessly down upon the boy. Luffy lowered his eyes and sighed, reaching a hand up to the glass door knob. Maybe when he came back out, the guy would give the bread back to him…?
The black haired boy entered the glass office and was temporarily blinded by the sunlight shooting in through the window. He squinted his eyes and found the familiar shadowy figure of a man sitting in a large chair. Luffy stepped forward and took his seat in a chair made of crystal, a chair he had sat in for far too many times.
"Monkey D. Luffy. This is getting ridiculous." The boy heard the principal's voice boom lowly, almost on the verge of anger. "How many times must the school tell you not to use your hair magic for trivial things? You do understand that your hair contains your life energy and that when you use it, you are also using up your own life?"
Luffy opened his mouth to protest but the principal slammed a hand down on the table, silencing the boy. He pouted and glared up into the sly looking eyes of the principal. Luffy really didn't like this person. Especially the rules this person made. Why did he have to restrict the students from using their natural born magic outside of class? What the principal told everyone wasn't true! Using up his own life? That was all a lie! Sure, every time he used his hair to work magic, he felt a little less lively. But, the next day, he'd be all ok again! It wasn't as if his life was being depleted every time he used his magic. If they had the power, they should use it normally! Or was the principal afraid of the students going out of control? The boy frowned and stared defiantly back at the principal's face that was almost completely hidden by the glaring light pouring in through the window. The principal sneered back and leaned forward, as if to tell the boy that he wouldn't win against his authority. "You know the consequences. You must stay after school doing various jobs for the teachers and workers until sundown. I will assign you extra homework as well." Luffy groaned and rolled his eyes in frustration. He would be skipping dinner again… The principal continued sternly, "If you don't change your behavior soon, I have no choice but to expel you from school, understood?" The black haired boy stood up pouting but then nodded obediently. "Good, you are dismissed."
Luffy pushed his way out of the glass office and sighed in annoyance. Another full day of being punished for using magic. He wouldn't be able to get back until late at night… Well, he'd just eat more for his midnight snack…! And besides, he still had pumpkin bread! He smiled at that thought and glanced to his left, searching expectantly for the tall man who had stolen his bread. But no one was standing there. The black haired boy growled angrily and fisted a hand. Why that guy… he took his pumpkin bread! Luffy cracked his knuckles and was about to sprint down the bright hallways, scouring the school for his pumpkin bread, when the low tolling of the bell in the school clock rang, signaling the start of class again. The boy stopped mid-step in his run and then drooped, pouting sadly. Well… he still had his midnight snack to look forward to…
"Used your magic again, eh, Luffy? You probably get the most practice out of everyone else in school. Maybe you'll grow bald soon!" A man with red hair chuckled at the black haired boy, who was holding a broom in his hands. The man packed a few books into his bag and then smiled gently at the boy. "So what did you do this time?"
Luffy frowned at the floor and swept at one of the corners of the room, brushing out a few puffs of dust into a pan on the ground. "They say it was a trivial thing but everyone was fighting over the pumpkin bread…" He stared at the ground thoughtfully and then sneezed from the dust that had he had accidentally inhaled. The red haired man laughed and leaned against the podium at the front of the room, watching the boy in interest.
"Ah, so you must've done something like using your hair to make your arms stretch and grab the pumpkin bread, right?"
Luffy blinked in surprise and quickly wiped his nose across his uniform sleeve. "How'd you know, Professor?" The man chuckled heartily and slapped the top of the podium a few times.
"So I got it right? That's what you did?"
Luffy nearly flushed in embarrassment, pouting at the laughing professor. The red haired man smiled lazily and slung his bag over his shoulder, readying to leave the room.
"Well, I assume you know what to do, Luffy. I'll see you tomorrow. And don't eat too much tonight." He smirked and started leaving out the door. But Luffy stopped the man by reaching a hand out.
"Ah, wait!" Luffy averted his eyes to the ground. The red haired professor blinked in surprise but turned around and smiled at the boy, waiting patiently. Luffy looked back up and then fisted his hands around the broom stick. "Why is it that the principal doesn't want us to use our magic? Isn't it natural for us to use it?"
The man smiled and reached out a hand to pat the boy's head. "Yeah, I don't think he should restrict you guys either but…" He trailed off, staring thoughtfully into the classroom. Luffy curiously watched the red haired professor. The man smirked and ruffled Luffy's hair, "But you shouldn't keep on using your magic so recklessly either. You should use your magic to help others. Not just yourself!"
The boy's mouth formed an 'o' and then he smiled, thinking about the professor's words. He should use his magic to help others! But he frowned again in disappointment. "But who can I use my magic on? No one wants my help." The professor blinked in surprise and then slapped his forehead.
"Ah right, you live by yourself. How could I forget?" He rubbed his chin and then glanced down at the boy, "Your friends…?"
"Don't have any." Luffy said simply, looking up at the red haired man. The man, in turn, nearly stumbled. He quickly righted himself up and smiled sheepishly.
"Ahh… well then… uhh…" The professor scratched his head and then sighed, moving to put his hands on Luffy's shoulders. "Just… use your magic to help the people who need help…" The boy blinked for a moment and then smiled in understanding. The red haired man grinned and gave the boy one last pat on the shoulder before waving good bye and leaving the classroom.
Luffy stood in the empty classroom, sweeping at the floors. He pondered on the professor's words for a while. What did he mean by people who needed help? Who would those people be…? The boy slowed in his sweeping and he moved to sit next to the window, staring dully out at the vast field of snow outside while setting his broom against a nearby wall. The bright rays of sunlight were sparkling against the white snow, ever flowing with energy. He sighed, watching as the last of the students left the school, laughing together. No one really needed any help here… Everyone was happy and content with their lives. They had everything they ever needed or wanted. Magic powers, time for leisure, families, friends, food, shelter, a place for education…
But were there other people? Other people who needed help?
As the boy watched the blinding sun dance its blazing tango over the snowy lands, he started to imagine what it was like outside of this place. The place beyond this barren white land. Was there a place where none of this bright snow existed? Where nights and sunsets came as often as day? A place where the sun burned the very ground? Or towns and villages and schools full of color? Were there people out there, waiting for someone like him to come by and help them from their problems…? Luffy's eyes started to close slowly and his head fell against the cold glass window as he dreamed and dreamed of those faraway lands. Maybe… just maybe… someone out there needed him. And maybe… just maybe… he would meet that someone…
The walls were pulsating with energy, condensed almost to a pure and crystallized form. But everything was dark. He couldn't see a thing. He could only feel the heavy cold shackles against his skin, chained to his wrists and ankles. There was also an empty and oppressing feeling in his heart. So very empty. And anxious. He could hear his slow heart beat suddenly quicken and then steady at irregular paces. This feeling… it was emptier and drier than anything that he had ever felt before…
"Who…?" A deep yet soft voice called out from the darkness.
"Who's there?" Luffy answered back, opening his eyes to his widest possible size, trying to find a light source to pin point the person the voice belonged to. He was feeling very puzzled by the sudden restrictions of his movement and the overwhelming feelings in his heart. He had never been in such a place before… with walls pulsating with so much life energy and a darkness that could swallow a person's mentality. Where was he…? The ebony haired boy ventured one step further, the farthest the shackles would allow him to move. "Who just talked?" He asked again into the darkness.
"Who…?" The deep voice answered back again, a little more shakily than before.
…ther scholars say that…
Luffy suddenly felt his heart explode with anxiety. He knew this feeling… only what he felt was usually just a dull throb in his chest. Anytime he watched a family walk by, happily holding hands, or when two good friends laughed together, chattering excitedly while ignoring him, this feeling would surface. It would form a dry lump in his throat that made it hard to swallow or breathe. It had hurt… but compared to this... He clutched his heart and shut his eyes tightly, stopping the tears from leaking out from his eyes. Why were there so many painful feelings...! The boy nearly threw up from the loneliness he was feeling. From the constant paranoia. The fear. What was wrong with him right now? Where was he? Why was he feeling this way when there was no reason to feel like this?
…bound to each other…
It was suffocating. His heart was aching. Swelling, engorged with air. But at the same time, his heart was a dry lump of cracked earth, crumbling slowly in his chest. Luffy choked and bowled over. His gut was squirming so badly… He never felt so lonely and scared in all his life…! There was something soft brushing against his hands and knees as he bent over, clutching at his heart and stomach.
"Who are…?" The deep and foreign voice called out again, uncertainly, probing cautiously in the dark.
…linked in soul form… even after reincarnation…
Luffy didn't know how, but in someway he had managed to figure out that the soft thing against his hands and knees were strands of hair. He couldn't see them. And over the tumult of feelings in his chest, he found that he didn't even have enough energy to feel the hair carefully or think about the hair. But he just knew. Like instinct. He knew that right now, he was touching his own hair. His own long strands of hair…
Other scholars say that certain people are linked in soul form and are bound to each other even after reincarnation…!
"Who… are you?"
A pair of eyelids snapped open, revealing frightened brown eyes, glowing palely. The irises darted right and left and then finally settled upon a point straight ahead. Shimmering moonlight flew in through the window, gently illuminating the raven haired boy leaning against the window. Luffy glanced around his surroundings in confusion, taking in the empty chairs and empty tables of the classroom he had been assigned to clean.
"A dream…?" The black haired boy blinked and glanced out the window, watching the sparkling stars and round blue moon hanging high in the dark skies. He lifted a hand to his heart and clutched at his chest, remembering every nauseous feeling from the bizarre dream. He remembered the soft hair that he had felt on his hands and knees… but that wasn't his hair… Who was it?
He shivered from the steep drop in temperature compared to the afternoon and rubbed his arms viciously, trying to regain some warmth. How long had he been sleeping? The boy breathed out a sigh against the window, teeth chattering, and he watched as the glass fogged from his breath. As he sat all alone in the classroom, trying to warm himself up and calm himself from the nerve wracking dream, the snowy land outside of the school walls seemed to grow ever darker. It must be almost eight or nine o'clock… Luffy mused to himself, frowning slightly. It was so late! Yet he still had to finish cleaning the classroom and the other rooms down the hall…! Ah well, he'd just have to do everything with extra gusto and finish as fast as possible! The boy stood up abruptly and grabbed his broom stick from the wall. Then, with a clumsy twirl, he made a pose, banging the end of the broom on the floor and pumping a fist in determination. "Yosh!" He nodded and ran towards the opposite wall to switch on the lights so that it would be easier to find all of the dirty spots on the floor. He flicked on the light switch made out of clear crystal and smiled, waiting for the lights to come on. The usual yellow lights didn't radiate around the room and Luffy frowned, staring at the round crystal lamps, hanging against the walls. Did they all need to be replaced…? He flicked the crystal switch off and on again, waiting expectantly for the lamps to burst into light. But no such thing occurred. The blue moon still shone in the air, almost as if mocking the black haired boy at his bad luck.
Luffy crossed his arms over his chest and let out a loud 'humph!' There must've been something very wrong… the lights always worked. Always! None of them had ever gone out or even grown dim before. Or at least, the boy never remembered seeing any dead lamps or flickering lights on campus… He walked towards one of the round lamps hanging on the wall and reached a hand up to tap the crystal. Just what exactly powered these things anyway…? Luffy scratched his head. Come to think of it, why hadn't he thought of that before? He peered closely at the lamp and noticed that nothing was inside. The lamp was only an empty cavity. Luffy shrugged and poked at the crystal a few more times. It was pretty normal… the lights in this land all came from these crystals. But for some reason… these crystals weren't working today. Maybe there was something wrong with the thing that gave the crystals light? Then, he'd have to fix it! But where could that thing be…? In the central control room? Did the school have something like a central control room …? If they did, the most suspicious place would be… the basement where no one but the principal was allowed to go to! The boy's ears perked up as he felt his stomach flop excitedly. This sounded like… an adventure…! He grinned and left the classroom hastily in order to find the elevator no one but the principal was allowed to use.
His broom stick dragged along behind him as he rounded another corner in the dark corridors of his school. Ta ta ta ta! The broomstick smacked the ground loudly at every bounce Luffy took. The sound echoed from hall to hall, but there was no one in the school to hear it. The raven haired boy skidded to a stop in front of an impressive looking elevator. The doors were made of glass and there were foggy looking engravings of the school emblem—a cross and a lily flower—etched into both sides of the door. Luffy's eyes grew round in excitement. He had always wanted to try riding this elevator at least once…! Now he had the chance to actually try it. The boy grinned widely and noticed a steel panel on the side of the white wall. He used his thumb to press the silver button on the panel and stepped back, waiting for the elevator doors to open.
After a few seconds of waiting, Luffy crossed his arms over his chest in annoyance. What took it so long? The school only had two floors, after all. The ground floor and the basement. The elevator didn't have to take so long just to reach the ground floor, did it? Unless if the basement was really far below ground? Luffy frowned and stared at the elevator impatiently. Then, he finally noticed the absence of the usual lights that always lit up to signal the elevator's movement. Did the elevator also use the same energy as the lamps…? He glanced down the hall he had come from and stared at the darkness and silence of the entire school. Maybe everything couldn't work properly because whatever powered the lights and elevator broke down?
Luffy smiled. Then, he'd just have to go and fix it! He started running towards one of the classrooms, remembering the forbidden stairs he had accidentally found one day while cleaning after school. A teacher had stopped him from going in, saying that it was too dangerous to go to unknown places… but perhaps the stairs led down to the basement! If he couldn't use the elevator, the stairs would be his only hope to rescuing the school from its power shortage! The boy halted in front of a door and slid it open. He peered inside, noticing how dark the classroom was getting without the lights. Luffy frowned, glancing out one of the windows. Judging from the position of the moon, it seemed to be around nine or ten o'clock now... it was getting late, but Luffy would never pass up the opportunity at having an adventure! His eyes searched the room for the hidden spot where the staircase should've been. It had been a while since he was assigned to clean in this room… he couldn't remember exactly where the secret staircase was. The boy walked towards the back wall of the classroom and rapped his knuckles against the white wallpaper, listening closely. Ka ka... Luffy knocked softly, pressing his ear close to the wall. Ka ka… He tapped again in another spot. Kok. The boy drew back and smirked, knocking the spot again. Kok kok. He grinned and studied the area carefully. Then, he noticed a part of the wallpaper peeling. The peel of wallpaper was just slightly out of reach, but Luffy knew that if he stretched he could reach the corner of wallpaper. The boy immediately stood up on his toes and grabbed the flap and pulled down. With a rip that sounded like a clap of thunder in the silence of the school, the wallpaper split in half. Luffy dug his fingers into the rest of the wallpaper, pushing and tearing down the canvas so that he could gain proper access to the forbidden area. The boy left the wallpaper flopping on its own and stared at the steep steps leading down into darkness. Luffy gulped in excitement. It almost felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down into a rocky abyss, feeling the rocks crumbling beneath his feet. The boy took a step down and shivered from the chill crawling up his spine. What a strange feeling… what was down there…? It was really dark… did it really lead to the basement of the school?
He set his jaw firmly and carried onward. If he wanted to find out what was wrong with all the crystal lamps and elevator, he had a feeling that he couldn't run away from the darkness that crept along the steps beneath his feet. With the broomstick in front of him to guide his way in the shadow, Luffy started making his way down the narrow steps. He turned his head over his shoulder, watching as the glow of moonlight started to fade away at every step he took downward. Where was he headed to? The boy's heart pumped quickly in his chest and he grinned. Now this was an adventure...! Suddenly, with one false step, he slipped and fell forward, losing his balance.
"Ah…!" Was all the boy could yelp before he tumbled down the steps like a small hurricane. "WAAAAAAHHHH!" He shouted, bracing himself against every step that he hit on his path down the steps. After what seemed like minutes of rolling down and around on the steps, Luffy finally smashed face-first into a wall which successfully halted his momentum. The boy peeled himself off of the wall and rubbed his nose vigorously, trying to numb the stinging pain shooting up his nose. He pouted and then stood up, patting off his pants casually. The black haired boy glanced around him and saw… nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was so dark… He lifted his hands up to his face and groped at the air in front of him. Then he waved. Luffy couldn't see his hands at all…! He felt a pang of anxiety fill in his chest and his lips drew into a firm line, remembering the dream he had today. The darkness… the feeling of loneliness and hopelessness, bordering on the point of nausea… The boy shook his head. There was sure to be a light switch somewhere…! But maybe it didn't work like the rest of the school…?
Luffy shook his head again and forced his legs to start moving. He stretched himself, trying to free himself of the paralyzing darkness and started walking around in random directions, hands in front of him, feeling for a wall or anything solid. Something tangible in all of this empty space. As he walked further and further around in the endless blackness, the more he noticed how silent his surroundings were. It was so quiet that it hurt his ears.
"Hello?" Luffy spoke, trying to break the mind wrecking silence. He smiled in relief as he could hear his own voice in all of the nothingness. At least it was something. Something other than the floor, the dark, and the silence. The boy started humming a tune, still trying his best to look for the wall. How far away were the walls anyway? Hadn't he been walking in one direction for a while now? He had hit a wall on his way down the stairs… but why couldn't he find it now? Suddenly, the boy noticed a few faintly glowing crystals, surrounding him on the walls. He paused in his walking for a moment. When had those gotten there? The shift in light had been so gradual, he hadn't even noticed it until he had been surrounded by the very faint crystals. He looked down at his hands. He could see them clench and unclench now. The boy stared at the walls in awe and walked a little further down. The light of the crystals seemed to grow brighter and brighter at every step he took. And now that it was slightly brighter, he noticed that all the crystals would simultaneously shift the color of their light. The crystals in the walls and the ones embedded in the floor would meld from green to blue, and then to purple, and then red, then back to blue. The colors all changed at exactly the same time… how strange… it was so entrancing… so in sync with each other. The constant repeat of slowly changing colors. Where was he…?
There were crystalline flowers blooming along the side of the path now. Luffy kneeled over one, studying it curiously. It was so beautiful... The details of the flower were so carefully done. It almost looked soft to the touch with its smooth petals. But the brittle stem signaled how very hard the flower actually was. The raven haired boy reached out a hand to touch it, his eyes round and shining in curiosity. What was this? He had never seen anything like it before… His hand paused. The crystal flower seemed to be pulsating with energy. An intense life energy that he had felt in that eerie dream…
Tap tap tap…
Luffy's ears perked up at the sound. It sounded like footsteps… was there someone coming? The boy gulped and rushed behind one of the largest crystals he could find. He put his hands on it and nearly yelped in surprise as he felt a fuzzy feeling shoot through his body from the point of contact on the large crystal boulder. The feeling didn't hurt… it just caught him off guard… so it should be ok to touch the boulder with his hands… The boy leaned against the crystal and peered around it, watching as a few people emerged from the darkness.
One person, with greasy black hair slicked back from his face, walked past Luffy's hiding spot, oblivious to the trespassing student. He had a long scar etched from one side of his face to the other, as if a knife had slashed him right across the nose. He looked grouchy and extremely annoyed. Luffy frowned, watching the man from a distance. He didn't like this person at all… he didn't know why, but it was just a feeling in the back of his mind. This guy was a bad person and would probably piss him off.
The three other people followed after the grouchy man obediently, wearing white sheets over their face and bodies, as if they were surgeons and doctors who were about to go and execute an operation. Where were they going? They seemed confident in all of this darkness, as if they had been down here for countless times and had already memorized every corner and turn in the cavern. Maybe they knew the way out…? Either way, he didn't have much choice other than to follow the people. Or he could always try and find his own way out… but that would take a long time… Luffy moved slowly from crystal to crystal, stalking after the group. He watched the greasy haired man with a scar across his face, who seemed to be the leader of the group. The man seemed familiar… Luffy was sure that he had never seen him before but… oddly enough, he felt that he had seen this person so many times in the past… The greasy haired man suddenly halted in the middle of the path lined by crystals and Luffy jumped behind another glowing boulder, peeping out curiously. Suddenly, the scarred man's head turned in his direction with narrowed eyes. Luckily, Luffy had noticed in time and had hid his head away from view. His heart pumped heavily and his gut wrenched. Did they notice him…? The boy stilled his breath, trying to calm himself and be alert for any sign of danger. His muscles tensed and he clenched his hands into fists, readying his legs to move at any moment.
But nothing ever came. He heard the sound of footsteps starting up again. The black haired boy cautiously peered over the top of his hiding spot and watched the backs walking off again. Luffy sighed in relief and wiped away a bead of sweat running down from his forehead. Man, that was close…! He was almost caught! The boy set out after the group again, paying closer attention to his movements so that he wouldn't be almost caught again. That greasy haired man was dangerous…!
As Luffy tiptoed after the group, he noticed that the size of the crystal surrounding him was getting larger and larger. The walls were turning into enormous sheets of crystal, still glowing and morphing from color to color. There were more crystalline flowers blooming from the ground as well and the entire cavern was filled with a mystical energy, pressing against Luffy's skin. There was the sound of cracking and the boy snapped his head in the direction of the group he had been following. The people had seemingly opened up a door in the side of the wall. Luffy cocked his head to the right, observing the four people enter through the cracked crystal door. Then, the door closed shut and the cracked crystal along the sides of the door seemed to grow back in place, smoothing out and sealing off the entrance or exit to the place the people had gone into.
The black haired boy blinked in surprise and then hastily jumped towards the place that had been a door. He stood in front of the section of the crystal wall and studied it carefully, looking for a way to enter through the door. But there was no door knob to turn. Nor was there anything shaped remotely like a handle to pull. Luffy gulped and lifted a hand to touch the smooth, glowing wall. His fingers tingled. He couldn't be… stuck in here, could he?
There were low voices mumbling from behind the wall. Luffy pressed an ear to the wall and trained all of his concentration upon his ears so that he could hear them properly. Perhaps they would say something that could help him get out of this place. What had he been doing down here in the first place…?
Oh, right. He had been looking for the source of the problem to the broken lights and elevator. The boy involuntarily shivered although there was no wind in the cavern. These crystals seemed to hold some sort of energy in them… maybe the crystals were the things that powered the school?
"He's looking even wearier every time I see him…" Luffy heard the one of the muffled voices speak. The boy moved back, finding that he could hear the voices even without having to lean against the wall. If he looked carefully, he could see the faint figures of the four people through the crystal. The people wearing white sheets were fumbling around and holding some sort of device in their hands while another figure—that Luffy assumed was the greasy haired man—stood in one spot patiently.
"Good, the more he despairs, the more power he'll give us." Luffy froze at that voice. That sounded like… the principal…! One of his eyebrows raised and he watched as the shape of the greasy haired man walked off. "Come, he is waiting for us…" The principal's voice echoed maliciously. The raven haired boy's eyes widened. No wonder he didn't like that person…! He was... the principal! Luffy's eyes narrowed and he scaled along the wall of crystal, warily watching the scarred man's figure. What was the principal doing down here…?
The boy followed after the figures in the crystal wall until something up ahead caught his eyes. He stopped in his tracks and his brown eyes widened in wonder. Among the walls, one section was so smooth that he could see almost clearly through the crystal. And beyond that glass-like wall, he found a majestic being, chained and shackled to the ground. He noticed immediately that the being had long, light green hair… Was this the person? The person he had met in his dreams…?
The person was sitting so still that it almost seemed as if he were dead. The raven haired boy took a tentative step closer, entranced by the mystical calmness the person was giving off. Luffy could feel his heart clench as he watched the long haired person, sitting on the ground, eyes closed. Whoever this person was, he looked so sad despite the feeling of calmness he emitted…
As the light from the crystals around him pulsated and changed color, Luffy crept closer, drawn by the person. In his dreams, had he been this person…? For just a moment, had he felt what this person felt all the time? If he did become this person in his dreams, how could that person just sit there so calmly, without squirming around on the ground, clutching at his hurting heart? All of a sudden, it was hard for the black haired boy to breathe and he felt a lump grow in his throat. When he watched this long haired being, sitting there so calmly through his despair… Luffy couldn't help but choke.
This person… he needed help…
Footsteps were leading from beyond the wall and Luffy snapped his head in the direction of the sound, remembering the group of four he had been previously following. The boy dropped down to his stomach, lying low on the ground, hoping that he wouldn't be spotted. The principal came into view and he strolled towards the green haired person sitting calmly on the ground, hands and legs bound to the ground with heavy chains. The three other people wearing white followed, holding a few pairs of shears in their hands. They fitted their hands into the scissors and moved it a few times, causing an ominous slicing sound to echo along the walls. Luffy frowned as he noticed the long haired person twitch from the sound.
The principal wove his fingers into the long haired person's hair, grinning maliciously. "Hello, Zoro…" The person named Zoro merely sat still, determined not to move. The principal sneered and yanked at the long hair, lifting Zoro up off the ground so that his feet dangled only a few inches from the ground. Then, the principal flung Zoro across the room, slamming into the crystal wall Luffy was looking through. Luffy's eyes narrowed and he growled in anger at the principal's treatment of this person. The person was already so miserable, yet they still wanted to torture him? The black haired boy wanted to punch the principal in the face so badly… but, how could he get into the crystal wall?
The three people dressed in white walked forward, snipping their shears. Zoro kept his eyes closed, pushing away the rising nervous feeling in his gut, and merely lay still against the wall, ignoring the stinging pain in his scalp and the throbbing bruise forming on the back of his head. The people moved forward hungrily and tugged at the long green hair. They started cutting mercilessly at Zoro's hair and scalp, snipping and snapping aggressively. Luffy watched angrily as the long green hair was reduced to crops and short patches of green. They were humiliating this person now? When he didn't even do anything to them? But... why didn't Zoro fight back? That above anything else made Luffy even more frustrated. Zoro looked like he could fight back on his own, yet he didn't do anything. He just let them do this to him without even putting up a struggle! The boy heaved deep breaths of air in a vain attempt at keeping his temper down.
The strands of hair that had been viciously clipped from Zoro's head were strewn on the ground and the principal walked forwards, grabbing a handful from the pile on the ground.
"Yes, this should be enough to take care of the school's sudden power outage today…" He smirked and waved at the other three, "You know what to do with the rest." The people wearing white nodded obediently and gathered together all of the hair and stuffed it into a sack they had prepared beforehand. The greasy haired principal sneered down at Zoro and spat at him, "This is the only thing you are useful for. Just stay silent and pity yourself. Be miserable."
He smiled pitifully at the unmoving man lying against the crystal wall and bent over to pet the man's short green hair, raking his hands through the blood that was starting to leak from the abuse on Zoro's scalp. "My poor poor child… I know you are hurt but you must understand that this is all good for you. I am making you…" The principal frowned, as if he were searching for the proper word. Then he smiled, "Great. Yes, I am making you great. You see, despair and hatred are the greatest powers on this earth. With it, you are forced to unleash all of your energy. Your frustration, anger, sadness… all concentrated upon one strand of hair…" He drew his hand back from the lifeless man and lifted up his other hand, full of Zoro's severed green hair. "This… is power…" The principal smirked and spoke into his hand and then threw the batch up into the air, watching the green hair dissipate into a fog of dust. He stood up and patted his hands clean. "That should provide energy for the school for another three years or so." He started walking away and then glanced back, a look only a man with crazed ambition would have, etched on his face. "I will see you again, Roronoa Zoro. Despair. And you will stay strong." The principal retreated back down the path towards his three accomplices. Luffy glared with all his might at the principal's head, hoping he could bore holes into the man's head. What? Despair was the greatest power on earth? Who was he kidding? But wait… something seemed strange… As the principal disappeared behind the crystal wall, Luffy stared at the place the principal had been standing in when he was using Zoro's hair to cast magic. The sinister man had said that that small batch of hair would provide energy for the school…? For another three years…? How could that be possible? Zoro should be dead by now if that were the case! Providing that much energy for the school… it was enough energy to kill someone! Was it possible that Zoro's powers were strong enough to fuel the entire school…? Luffy decided that he would have to check later. When he got back up to the surface.
The greasy haired principal suddenly glanced back suspiciously, feeling as though there were someone unwelcome watching him… When he saw no one besides the prone figure of Zoro, he scowled in annoyance and then signaled for the other three to start moving again.
Luffy had pressed himself tight to the ground when he saw the principal look backwards over his shoulder in confusion. Had he been discovered? The black haired boy gulped and stayed as still as possible, holding his breath so that he seemed as immobile as the ground beneath him. The sound of the principal's heavy footsteps started again and Luffy watched warily from the floor as the man walked back towards the part of the crystal wall that turned foggy and hard to see through. The boy let out the breath he had been holding and turned his brown eyes back upon the still figure of Zoro. He looked like a doll, limp and slumped against the wall at an uncomfortable angle.
Standing up slowly, Luffy started making his way towards the crystal wall separating him from Zoro. He paused at the wall, looking down upon the soulless green haired man. Why did he look so weak now when he had just looked so majestic and powerful before? Luffy watched on silently, observing the person beyond the wall.
"Who's there…?" The black haired boy blinked at the low voice that he had heard. Suddenly, Zoro shifted a little and grasped the crystal wall to pull himself to his feet. Luffy jumped back, startled by the man's sudden movement. The green haired man looked up from the ground and stared at the wall, straight at Luffy. The black haired boy froze on his feet, stunned by being caught in Zoro's eyes. They stood still, both unmoving from their spots. It felt as though if any one of them moved from this point onwards, they would be breaking something precious. And Luffy didn't want that.
The raven haired boy gazed back into the man's eyes and was slightly surprised to see how dull they looked. There was no light in them. And the pupils looked unfocused, as if a wisp of cloud had decided to live in the man's eyes. Zoro was looking straight at him, but at the same time… it seemed like he couldn't see him… Was Zoro… blind?
"Who's there?" This time Luffy saw the lips move on the green haired man. He paused for a moment, unsure as to how he should respond. Then, he stepped forward tentatively. In return, Zoro took a step back cautiously, still staring blindly in Luffy's direction. The boy took another step closer, this time a little more confidently.
"My name is Monkey D. Luffy." He smiled at the man even though he couldn't see it. "And who are you?" The green haired man tensed slightly at Luffy's voice. His eyebrows furrowed together for a moment, creasing together in thought. And then he relaxed slightly, eyebrows falling back calmly into a stoic expression.
"Roronoa Zoro." The man told the boy softly. The words hung in the air, hovering over the two people who were standing face to face in a cavern full of glowing lights. They were only separated by a single sliver of crystal wall…
Zoro lifted his hands up, groping around in the air, slowly searching for the wall he had just crashed into earlier. He took a few small steps forward and the chains around his wrists and ankles chimed as he moved. Perhaps if he reached that wall, he could get closer to this new person? But what if this person named Monkey D. Luffy was also going to hurt him…? The man stopped moving. Monkey D. Luffy was going to hurt him? But… it sounded like he was on the other side of the wall… so he wouldn't be able to touch him… Zoro started moving forward again, chains jingling. Even if this Luffy person was going to hurt him… it felt nice, that for once, he could hear another person's voice.
Luffy watched as Zoro moved forward, trying to reach the wall he was standing behind. The boy smiled and slowly trekked forward, extending one hand out to the wall. This man seemed so lonely and sad… the professor had told him that he should help people who needed help… His fingertips were almost to the wall and he could see and feel Zoro's hand inching closer at the same time. Had he finally met someone who needed his help…?
Their hands reached the crystal barrier between them at the same time. Zoro's eyes widened slightly as he felt the wall beneath his palm and the foreign warmth that was coming from the other side, offering comfort and support. Luffy gulped and could feel a wave of excitement rush over him as he watched his hand press against the wall and match with Zoro's hand. Everything seemed to stop. The glowing crystal lights seemed to disappear, the silence of the cavern replaced by the sound of their beating hearts. Both of them only felt each other even though they weren't actually touching. They were feeling the other through that layer of crystal. Luffy licked his lips and then broke the entrancing spell between them by grinning.
"I'm gonna get you out." His voice bounced along the walls confidently.
Zoro froze and an expression of disbelief crept across his face. What was this person talking about? Get him out? How? He had tried so many times in the past, pounding on the walls and floor until his hands and feet bled and bruised in exhaustion… This person would be releasing him from this prison? How was that possible? The warmth under his fingertips disappeared and he frantically brought his other hand up against the wall, searching for that comfortable feeling again. What was happening? Where had that feeling gone? What was Luffy doing?
"Luffy?" Zoro asked softly, searching blindly in his darkness for the person's voice, hands patting at the wall, trying to find the boy. "Luffy?"
The raven haired boy smirked and withdrew his hand from the man's hand to pluck a strand of hair from his head. "Don't worry, Zoro. Believe in me." He stepped back and lifted the strand of hair to his mouth. He smiled, closing his eyes and poured all of his confidence into the hair held between his fingers and into the next words he spoke. "I will get you out."
Zoro tensed at the words Luffy was telling him. Don't worry…? Believe? Luffy was going to get him out…? Unbelievable. It was impossible. Nevertheless, a strange feeling rose in his chest, spreading out and filling the emptiness inside of him. What was this…? It felt warm, just like when he had touched the wall… but it hurt at the same time. A wrenching feeling in his stomach…
Luffy blew the strand of black hair and watched it fly into the air, disappearing in a breeze. Suddenly, a large solid mallet formed in his right hand. The head of the mallet was as large as one of the crystal boulders he had been hiding behind earlier and the handle was as long as both of his arms put together. His left hand reached over and both of his hands closed their fingers around the end of the handle. Then, he brought the entire mallet up and behind him, swinging back with his arms and his entire body.
"Zoro, duck!" The boy grinned manically, winding up and getting ready to smash the mallet into the crystal wall with as much force as possible. The green haired man heard Luffy's shout and quickly pulled down to the floor, not really understanding what was happening, but knowing in his heart that somehow everything would be all right. Because Luffy was there.
With a loud grunt and muscles rippling and bulging, the boy let himself fall into the swing, sending the mallet rotating over his shoulder, around his waist and then straight into the crystal wall. He put all of his weight into the swing and the head of the mallet slammed into the wall. With a rumbling crack, the crystal split and Luffy kept pushing the enormous mallet into the opening. The wall gave way, shards of crystal breaking away while the mallet pushed through. Luffy stepped through the shower of crystals that were breaking off from the gaping hole in the wall. Then he slowly walked towards the man still crouched on the ground, dragging the mallet behind him. Now that the crystal wall wasn't in the way any longer, Luffy could feel his heart clench and soar at the sight of the man before him. This person was the one he had met in his dreams! How amazing was that? It was a person from his dreams, squatting right before him, in the flesh. And now that he had broken down the crystal wall, he could finally get this person out of this prison…! He lifted the mallet onto his shoulder and then draped one arm over the handle casually. The boy grinned boyishly and laughed with a carefree cheer. "Hi, Zorooo."
The green haired man was too surprised to answer. He stood up slowly, staring in the general direction Luffy's voice was coming from. After briefly hearing Luffy shout at him to duck, he had heard an enormous crash from the wall. And now, he could hear the sound of crystal clinking on the ground and shattering into little bits. Was the wall broken…? No way. It was impossible… wasn't it? He stretched an arm out curiously, searching for the boy's voice. It sounded so close… so near… Did he really break through the wall…? But how did Luffy break it so easily? He inched forward on his grimy bare feet, constantly moving towards this foreign person. If he reached that person, would he be free…? Could he really leave this place…? The shackles on his feet suddenly grew taut and he couldn't move any further. His eyebrows creased and he helplessly pulled his legs, trying to move further. He could almost hear and almost feel the breath of the stranger named Luffy standing only a few more inches away. Why did these chains hold him back now? At this moment in time…? Zoro lowered his arms, giving up his search for Luffy and succumbing to the darkness again. It was impossible. How could someone be here to free him? After all this time…?
Luffy frowned slightly as the green haired man stopped moving completely. What was wrong with him? He was here to save him so shouldn't he be happy? The boy's eyes trailed over the man's form and noticed the chains around his wrists and ankles. His eyes lit up. That must be it…! He laughed and walked towards the fallen man whose head was bowed down in defeat. "Stupid, Zoro. You should've told me if you still couldn't move. Hold on for a moment… I'll definitely get you out of here!"
That clenching yet warm feeling was in his chest again… Zoro lifted his head slowly and listened for Luffy's movements. Why was he so confident? What if he got caught? Then what? It would be all his fault for pulling Luffy into his problems...! And then maybe he'd be imprisoned just like him? A swishing sound came from behind him and the green haired man heard the slam of something heavy into the ground and the unmistakable clunk of chains spilling and scattering across the floor. Zoro twitched from the sound but took a timid step forward, expecting the chains to hold him back. But instead, a strange feeling swept across him as his foot moved past the point he could never pass. He moved his other foot experimentally and took a step forward. Then he noticed that he could move his arms freely as well. A furious hotness rushed from his feet to the top of his head after realizing his newfound freedom. He could move...! He could move!
Luffy leaned on the handle of the mallet and smiled widely as he observed the green haired man take a tiny step forward. Then, he watched Zoro pause in surprise, staring blindly down at his feet and hands. "Neehee," Luffy grinned, "See? I told you I'd get you out of here." The mallet in his hands disappeared and the boy nearly tripped over from the lack of support holding him up. But he caught himself in time and smiled sheepishly. "Mm, the power must've been used up…" The boy spoke idly, staring at the spot the mallet had once been. He strolled towards the green haired man and lifted his hand to tap the man with his fingers. Zoro flinched at the touch, slightly surprised by Luffy's sudden movement. He quickly pulled away and turned on his heels so that he faced Luffy. The black haired boy pouted, hand still paused in mid-air after only tapping the man once on the shoulder. Zoro didn't trust him enough…? Luffy sighed inwardly but nevertheless put a smile on his face. "Zoro, I'm going to get you out. Do you know the way out of here?" The green haired man shook his head. It was all dark here… he wouldn't have been able to see any exit. Luffy's eyebrows furrowed in thought, trying to remember how he had first come to this place. The more he thought, the more harder it was to remember. There had been so many turns after all…! The raven haired boy shrugged it all off and grabbed Zoro's hand firmly in his own so that the man couldn't pull away. Zoro tensed, muscles nearly cramping. This foreign person was holding his hand…? As if they had been friends for a long time…
"Come on." Luffy pulled Zoro out of the cage of crystal the man had been trapped in. They hastily walked through the shower of broken crystals and started moving in a direction Luffy hoped was the way back to school.
The two young men weaved their way through the dim lit path of crystals, steadily making their way through the cavernous tunnels. Luffy stood at the front, leading Zoro with his one hand gripped onto the other man's tightly so that they wouldn't be separated. Zoro followed behind, pulled forward by Luffy's hand, staring blindly and lagging back a little, still uncertain if he should follow Luffy or not. The green haired man let himself be dragged forward like a rag doll, too busy with his thoughts to care where Luffy was taking him. Was this boy trustworthy…? How did he know if Luffy wouldn't take him to some place that would torture him even worse than what they did here? And even if Luffy wasn't taking him to some place like that, why would Luffy want to help him when they just met? The boy had no reason to endanger himself just in order to help him leave the dark prison… he had no reason… so then why? Why…?
Luffy paused and Zoro nearly bumped into the boy's back. The raven haired boy tapped his foot on the ground and stared at the large glowing crystals surrounding them. "Hmm… this place looks a little familiar…" Zoro blinked and turned his head, staring at the darkness. Why did Luffy say that the place looked familiar…? All he could see was the pitch blackness of the air before him.
"I can't see anything…" The green haired man spoke quietly, almost as if he were afraid of Luffy's reaction. The black haired boy turned his attention upon Zoro, who was staring off to the side with misty looking eyes. Luffy gave the man a small smile.
"Ahh, so you really can't see…" The boy sighed and moved closer to examine the man's eyes. "But is it because you were trapped down here for a long time… or something else…? Your eyes look like something is in them… like a swirl of clouds…" Luffy leaned closer, curiously staring at Zoro. The green haired man shifted uncomfortably, noticing Luffy's breath drawing closer and closer towards him. He took a small step back, muscles tense and feeling extremely uncertain. Luffy paused in his scrutiny, noticing how awkward Zoro felt. The boy sighed to himself. It would take some time to earn Zoro's trust, huh…? Luffy merely smiled again, hiding away the small feeling of disappointment welling up in his chest, and pulled Zoro in another direction. It would take time, but he would definitely help Zoro out of his despair. As the boy walked down the path, staring at the crystals passing by, he started to remember that the entrance to this basement had been very very dark. Maybe if he directed himself towards the darkest place in the cave, they would find their way out?
Luffy and Zoro froze on their feet as they heard the panicked voice echoing along the walls of crystal. The two boys glanced over their backs nervously, eyes wide in shock. They had found out!
"There's a hole in the wall, sir!"
"FIND HIM, YOU IMBECILES!"
And after that powerful shout, they heard a mad trample of footsteps across broken crystal. The two fugitives stood in their places, looking much like two deer caught in a car's headlights. What could they do? They needed to run. And fast! Luffy was the first to move. He pulled Zoro quickly towards the darkness as silently as possible. No way would he let the principal take Zoro back and abuse him! He had told the green haired man that he was going to get him out and no matter what happened, he would do as he said! Luffy started jogging towards the darker side of the cave, dragging Zoro along. He frowned slightly, noticing how much Zoro lagged behind. Could he not use his feet properly…? But of course, if the green haired man had been locked up since he was a child, it would be no wonder that the man had forgotten how to run.
Zoro grit his teeth in frustration wondering why his feet couldn't move faster and catch up with Luffy. The boy was pulling on his arm and he was sure he was being a great burden to him… he was slowing the both of them down. At this rate, not only would he be caught but Luffy might be captured by his torturers and become separated from his body parts, hacked and cut piece by piece, by scissors. The green haired man roughly threw Luffy's hand aside, successfully loosening the boy's grip on his hand. The two stopped in their tracks, both panting slightly from the exertion of energy from trying to play this cat and mouse game of hide and seek. Luffy glanced back, slightly confused by Zoro's actions. Zoro merely stared back stoically, giving no words of explanation. Because explanations would only complicate things.
The crystals surrounding the two males were dimmer than before, a sure sign that they were heading in the right direction. Luffy watched Zoro in confusion and annoyance. What was Zoro doing? Didn't he want to escape? He stared at the green haired man for a while, taking in the man's rugged appearance. His hair, cut at different lengths with dried blood, caked over his scalp. His cloudy eyes, staring defiantly yet nervously past him. And his slouching form, tired and weary, as if he were carrying the world's burden upon his back. At that moment, Luffy understood. And he stepped forward, reaching a soft hand out to touch Zoro's pale and grimy one. Zoro flinched but remained steadfast. He was unsure. Uncertain. Doubtful. Unwilling yet willing to accept. Could Luffy really get him out? Would everything really be ok…?
"I told you already didn't I?" Luffy's soft and comforting voice felt like the free wind in Zoro's ear. Liberating… He felt Luffy's hand squeeze his own. "I'm not leaving without you." Zoro gulped at the dry lump in his throat, all resolve for sacrificing himself in order to save the boy dissipating. Just with those few words…
"There he is!"
"There's someone with him!"
Luffy smirked and gave Zoro's hand another squeeze, as if it would pump the energy into both of their legs. "Let's go!" Zoro nodded and felt Luffy tug his hand in one direction. He quickly followed, mentally urging his feet to move and move and move. It didn't matter how they moved. Or if they hurt when they moved. As long as they did. As long as they ran. And then the both of them sped off into the darkness, the dimly glowing crystals dimming further as they sprinted down the blackening path. A small smile spread across Zoro's face in the safe veil of darkness. Ahh… he was running… he was moving…
The three people wearing white, who had been chasing after the two runaway boys, hastily split up, releasing two after the fugitives' tails while one stayed behind. The greasy haired principal slowly walked towards the one person who had stayed behind, not bothering to give chase. He was confident that he would catch the green haired man, wherever he may escape to… there was no need to rush…
"Sir!" The person saluted and stood as straight as a tower when the principal was close enough. "I have some information to report!" The scarred man lazily gestured for him to continue. "Roronoa Zoro has been spotted with another person… wearing the school uniform…" The principal raised an eyebrow in interest.
"Yes, sir…" The person nodded and watched the greasy haired man carefully. A sneer crept its way onto the principal's face, spreading smoothly across like the trail of a moving snake upon clear desert sands. A student from the school? Who would possibly dare to go against the rules and enter the basement? There was only one person he could think of. Every sliver of evidence pointed to that boy… The principal chuckled and waved his hand at the person saluting him.
"Go tell the others to stop the chase. I have a more efficient plan." The greasy man smiled almost kindly and turned a pitiful eye towards the darkness. That poor student. He wouldn't know what had hit him… He smirked and the mysterious light from the crystals reflected in his eyes, making him look even more sinister than usual. Yes, this could all be done with little or no hassle. There was no need to rush. No need to hurry. Everything would eventually fall into his plans. For he and Zoro were bound. Bound by the soul. And because of that, it would be inevitable. Inevitable that they would meet again and again no matter how far or how long the other tried to run away.
AN: Sorry, I wrote this way back when Crocodile was a real crook so… he's gonna be pretty evil in this story. This entire story (including the next few chapters) is supposedly one whole chapter in this huge story but… I couldn't finish the second chapter (where they meet Sanji in a land where it's constantly night). Therefore, think of this story as a very long one-shot.