Translator's note: This is the English translation of the fanfiction, 如歌的行板 by Limbo-Azure. If you happen to be able to read Chinese, check out the original at www . fanfiction s / 7810906 / 1 / (take out the spaces). It took me a while to finally get it out, but I have to say I'm pretty proud! Hope you all enjoy!


Like a Song's Tempo

01

What did the Pirate King's former residence look like? Sanji mused as he strolled along. Did they take over and set the place as a tourist attraction when many years ago, the pirates became weak to the World Government?

Presently, he reached Foosha Village. It remained its usual peaceful atmosphere, just like the bartender – she was still a beautiful young lady when Luffy was a child – with her warm smile. There was still the wooden bar top, the benches with the fading paint, and the kids as they raised their classes filled to the brim with orange soda, yelling, "I'll be the next Pirate King!"

Sanji took a sip of his beer, watching as the sun's rays cascaded down and covered the children with its golden light.

02

The restaurant's business was always not as good as usual on Monday mornings, and today was no exception. After a few old men drinking tea left, Sanji sat there in a stupor, mindlessly watching the people bustle to and fro the street. He quickly became aware of a man cloaked in an ostentatious black cloak, walking as if treading on an invisible string. The man was leisurely heading towards the restaurant.

The bell tinkled as the glass door was pushed open. He took of the hat, revealing light blonde hair and a sickly pale face.

Basil Hawkins. The "Magician".

Sanji brought out red tea and desserts for the unexpected guest, who explained to him why he was here. It seems to be that one of Hawkins's crew was imprisoned in Impel Down and was going to be executed, so he wanted to know how Luffy had managed to successfully infiltrate the prison. And in return for the information (that is, after he succeeded in breaking his crewmate out), he'll fulfill any demands, as long as it doesn't endanger his life.

Hawkins's tone was calm and steady, his expression without a tiny shred of emotion. But the dark circles under his eyes and the bloodshot eyes betrayed his panicked feeling.

Sanji swished the golden-brown liquid in his glass, wordless. Maybe Hawkins was used to having excessive good luck, because he clearly didn't understand that everything he had will not be enough for the consequences of his wish. In fact, far from it, so far that it was laughable. But even more amusing is that those who think they have clear heads often will understand when it was too late.

"Are you, you who are known as "the Magician", not able foretell his fate? What can you do? Can you stop the tides, stop the sun from setting? Or, perhaps a more fitting power, raise the dead?"

Hawkins was unperturbed by Sanji's word and replied thoughtfully, "If it was indeed Luffy's wishes, I could revive the late Ace, though the effect wouldn't be so… great."

Sanji, who had prepared a more hurtful and mocking sentence, suddenly felt as if the tea tasted bitter and didn't have enough milk in it. He didn't know what to say.

03

Luffy only knew his brother had a lover after the latter's death. The person happened to be Sanji. Nami told him so.

If Nami never said it, he would've never guessed, including the time Sanji had bought a log pose from All Blue and decided to settle onto the island where Ace was buried. Luffy believed that it wasn't because he was oblivious; it was more like Sanji had hid it all too well.

He never brought up the topic of Ace as well. Every year, when it was his death anniversary, he would just give a few words of comfort to Luffy and go off to do his own thing like everyone else. He would still cook like usual and pick a fight with the swordsman like usual.

Luffy was never even suspicious.

And even after years had passed, he would still remember his brother's gentleness, strength, and that evil look he had when he grinned. It was just too hard to forget. So sometimes, he would also remember the time when he and Ace was young, his brother had vowed to give it his all to love his future partner. If that lover, who had not managed to see Ace before his untimely death, had heard that, he would be even more heartbroken.

Yet when the topic was brought up, Sanji would oddly and tiredly say, "I'm sorry, Captain."

04

However, Luffy didn't doubt that the two did love each other till death parted them.

05

Brave young men still ventured the four seas, yet with less passion as before. Where there was suppression, there was rebellion. Where there was no suppression, there was naturally no rebellion.

Following the enchanting "Devil Child" 's reveal of the sin of the Void Century, pirates and the Revolutionary Army recruits from all over the world finally battled it out, and the World Government was overturned. Unlike the Marineford battle, people didn't know why they fought so hard. Was it for fame? Justice? Freedom? Or for their personal goals?

Of course, this question wasn't pondered by all pirates. All they had to do was to carry the ideals then die from persistence.

06

Tropical islands were prone to have frequent showers, making the inhabitants almost always damp. The late Pirate King's son Ace's orange cowboy hat couldn't take the constant rain; it started to mold. On the other hand, the dagger that lay besides it barely had any difference. It was still as sharp as before.

There was a pair of pants, sandals, and a chain of glazed beads, plus the voice and happy countenance brought out through the stone tablet – yet, something was still missing. Sanji leaned against the gravestone and thought about it for a long time. When he died, was it raining? Was he smiling? Or was he crying? Or did he not die, but simply disappeared from the world and never died?

Finishing the last piece of bread from the picnic basket, Sanji stood up and took a deep breath of air that wasn't tainted by nicotine. He prepared to go back to his restaurant to prepare the materials for the next day. The sky was beginning to darken, the ruby red sun casting its dying rays onto the two gravestones that sat side to side.

Thick mist rose from the ground. A figure stood there, and it was Ace, still as young as ever. A familiar smile adorned his face. He beckoned Sanji forward, a hand reaching out, as if wishing to caress the other's older face.

It wasn't same anymore.

The year Sanji was nineteen, Portgas D. Ace was twenty.

The year Sanji was thirty, Portgas D. Ace was twenty.

He'll quickly outlive Ace's entire life.

Just like a lighting up an old picture, light from the sunset enveloped Ace like fire, turning him back to a skeleton, following Hades's song and floating further and further away, finally disappearing into the thicket and the distant horizon.

07

"What does All Blue look like?"

"There are blue skies, white clouds, red brick walls, green tiles. Fish from all four seas gathered, and you could eat as many tuna sandwiches as you like."

"The important thing is that you don't make tuna sandwiches."

"Even if I did make them, you'll still fall asleep eating them anyways."

Ace laughed, hugging him once before falling asleep.

What did I dream of?

I dreamed of you dying, a huge gaping hole in your chest. I dreamed of you lying in a pool of your own blood, dreamed of you getting tortured in prison, dreamed of you screaming.

I dreamed of you, standing stoically as you endured the "cleansing" in Impel Down, dreamed of you saying, "How can a man be afraid of death?", dreamed of you sacrificing your life to save your brother.

I dreamed of you, uncertain where to bring us for tomorrow's date, dreamed of you saying you'll protect me, dreamed of you saying to wait for you, because you'll definitely stay with me one day.

I dreamed that the village you grew up in also had blue skies, white clouds, red brick walls, green tiles, dreamed of you yelling at Luffy, saying you won't die, dreamed of you setting out to the sea in a sailboat when you're seventeen.

I dreamed of you giving Luffy your vivre card, then sneakily handing me another half, the only keepsake between us.

Then, both turned to ashes on the same day.

Sanji sat up straight, watching blankly as the rice paper used for fortune telling burned to crisps.

Sorry. The information about the dead being was too little. Since there was no evidence of his promise, please become his gravestone epitaph. Thank you for your help.

– Hawkins

08

The Straw Hat Pirates's last member to achieve his dreams was Roronoa Zoro. The day his title as number one was spread across the world, Sanji wondered if that girl had heard. They decided to have a party at his place, especially since they haven't met up for several years after their separate departures from Raftel Island.

Just to prepare for this event, Sanji bought out the entire island's supply of meat, so Luffy wouldn't eat his house.

After prepping for so many things, he settled down for a cup of tea and a newspaper to read. Yet at that moment, Luffy came loudly in, sitting down, and began to chat and eat.

Sanji suddenly asked, "For many years, I always wanted to ask your brother a question. If we were separated while escaping from a disaster, who would he save first?"

For many years Sanji had thought sadly, even though I never got the chance to ask him, he told me the answer.

"Isn't this a really easy question? He'd save me. He trusts you to protect yourself more than he trusts me."

The doorbell rang. It was Zoro and Nami, both carrying souvenirs and gifts. The Pirate King immediately pounced on the duo, just like the old days.

He continued reading the newspaper; the headline of this issue was X Drake's execution. It was said that another Supernova, Hawkins, had went to save him. The effort failed. Drake was chained by seastone handcuffs, and Hawkins was about to die, so the former committed suicide.

There was no picture of Hawkins (Sanji guessed that the Marines didn't want to make the matter too big); there was only an image of his lover lying on the platform, dead. Yes, Drake was his lover.

Usopp was the last one to arrive, and so Sanji got up and headed to the kitchen once more. Drake had held what looked like a bunch of hay, long and sharp. It used to be a lock of Hawkins's blonde hair.

While he busied himself cutting vegetables, beating eggs, and crushing red chilies, Hawkins's indifferent face hovered in his mind. Why hadn't he tried to revive his lover? Is it because he'll die for it? Then why did he make such an oath previously, or was it because he knew that Drake's fate was sealed, so he preferred to die rescuing him than hang himself on his own boat?

Sanji's hand never ceased working as he felt warm tears slide down his cheeks.

09

History turned into legend, and legend turned into myth. Everything about the Straw Hat Pirates was just a topic that people would gossip about.

Sanji had suddenly disappeared. Some people say it was sickness, other people say he went on a journey, and few had suspected that he was called by Ace's brother – what was he called again? – to Hell.

The thin covers of the history book had covered everything, including every twist and turn of the love story, though it had missed the core, the center. The long lasting had long crumbled away and decayed, yet small moments forever remained.

10

Who was Sanji?

He was just a chef.

He loved waiting, and Ace had him wait for an entire lifetime.

Who was Ace?

He was just a pirate.

Whatever he owed to Sanji, he never repaid.

And many years later, a figure stood there in front of the gravestone that was no longer surrounded by flowers, stressing every syllable as he read it slowly and carefully.

Finish.


Limbo-Azure-san and I would both appreciate it if you could leave a little review. ^^ Thanks for reading~