This prologue can also be found in my 100 Theme Challenge as Sacrifice, posing as a ZoLu nakamaship one-shot. But it's primary function is sparking interest in the story known as The Stuff of Legends.

Please review! Because this makes me feel like a horrible person, and I need some encouragement to turn this into a happy ending.

Chapter 1 - Zoro's Lament

"When I decided to follow my dream, I
had already discarded my life."
Roronoa Zoro

Sometimes, I forgot why I joined his crew. I wondered why I put up with his stupidity and incompetence. He disturbed me every day, poking at my side and egging me on to play a childish game of tag. I would crack open one eye and tell him straight up no, and he would slouch away, muttering about my being a party pooper. I would close my eye and fall asleep again, only to be awoken by being stepped on by a stupid cook.

I hated the simple way he took things, the way he called everything a mystery. And his stupid rubber powers got in the way too, especially during meals. When dealing with a bottomless pit, you learn to guard your food with every amount of strength you had.

I was the first mate of the Straw Hat Pirates. Not by choice, of course. He practically forced me to join, and at first I was confident. This scrawny kid I could easily defeat in a fight any time I wanted. And one wrong step to lead me off from my dream, and his guts would be across my boots.

The Greatest Swordsman in the world. My dream. Not many pirates still carried that, a dream. Most sail on for the hell of it, going wherever the wind takes them and not giving a damn where they end up. They have nothing driving them on, no goal for them to accomplish. At times in my early life, I thought I was the only one with the ambition.

And then I met him. His confident smile spoke to me. To be the King of the Pirates, is what he said. And for some reason, I believed him. I may not even know his name, but the way he talked, that cheeky grin on his face and an enthusiastic thumbs up. I liked him. He had spunk, but I wouldn't go with him, I had my own goals, my own dreams to fulfill. And yet, I still went with him.

And now, if I could I would travel back in time and slap myself. Don't do it. Don't join up with this guy. Hell awaits you, and a stupid cook who won't shut the hell up about women. Save yourself and cherish your sanity while you still can.

But a me from the future would stop me, holding me back. He would tell me about the things I never would have accomplished had I not met him. For one, I would be dead, executed by that bastard marine. I never would have met Mihawk, and realized I still wasn't good enough.

I had gotten cocky. I already believed myself to be the best, and I thought the more swords, the more powerful one could be. That fight taught me I still had a hell of a lot to learn, that was for sure. And I had that scar to remind me. It pulsed every now and then, and I would immediately train, like it would egg me on, to not let myself get weak.

No, had I not met that rubber idiot, challenging an assassin from the North Blue would have been impossible. The accomplishment of slicing steel would have been out of my reach for many a year, possibly until I was even thirty years old, or more. That battle was a pain in the ass, but I was drawn to the breath of all things, feeling the presence of the life around me.

Had I not met him, battling a god in the sky would have been a distant dream. Had I not met him, defeating a giant giraffe-man would not have made the To Do list. Had I not met him, I would be as weak as ever, and possibly never be as strong as I am now.

Without knowing, I got stronger and stronger with every island we passed. It was subtle, but with every enemy defeated, my experience grew, and my katana thrived within my hands. Never would I have gained this much power only as a simple bounty hunter.

Tch. Had I not met him, I wouldn't be about to do this right now.

The giant ball of pain floated only a foot away, shimmering red with the rising sun. My breath came in deep gasps, and I could feel the blood staining my clothing, running down my arms and trickling down my back. My body was weak, unable to handle the constant fight after fight, and then surviving the giant bomb that blasted the entire ship Thriller Bark to kingdom come. And not only that, battling the bear man one on one was taking its toll. I was definitely at my physical limit.

That one sample he had given me. It was like fire in my veins. All my organs ripped themselves apart and were sewn together again, the skin peeled from my bones and nails driven into my skull. My eyes turned to goo inside my head, and ears pounded with blood. A scream ripped itself from my throat, a sound I had no idea I could make.

It was over in an instant, and I fell to the ground, desperately heaving air into my lungs. It was a glorious feeling, sweet oxygen filling my body. Despite this, I could barely move, and I was being pricked all over with a thousand needles. Being electrocuted by that witch's staff was a mosquito bite compared to this, and that for sure was saying something.

But now I stood alone. I had to do this. It was for him. All for him.

I had come to realize along our journey that our dreams all began to intersect with one another. I couldn't accomplish my dream if he didn't accomplish his. No one could. If he died, all our respective dreams would be crushed, annihilated, completely razed into oblivion. So now here I was thinking about everyone else. Even the shitty cook.

If I sacrificed myself, allowing the captain to live on, everyone else could see their dreams come true. One by one.

That coward would become the man he always wanted.

That witch would draw her stupid map.

That shitty dartboard would find his All Blue.

That bipolar reindeer would find his cure for all diseases.

That woman would find her Rio Poneglyph.

That perverted robot would sail to the ends of the earth on his ship.

That obnoxious skeleton would be reunited with his pet whale.

That stupid rubber man would become the King.

And me?

I lunged for the giant paw of pain, throwing my arms inside. Immediately, the pain raced through my body, turning it to what felt like molten lava. The sample had been multiplied four hundred thousand times, possibly even more. I was surprised I could even focus on anything right now as my body thrashed around, clawing at myself as if that would ease the pain.

As for me, well, I wouldn't become the greatest swordsman in the world. I was going to die, right here. And it was right at that moment when I realized why I joined him.

I joined him because I smelled adventure. He gave me opportunities to do what no man has done before, go where no man has gone, and see what no man has seen. He showed me what it means to have true nakama, to truly care about someone, and to love them so much you would risk your life for theirs.

Ha. Maybe I had learned something from a rubber brained moron. But as my world grew black, and my thoughts hazy, the one thing that remained in my head was a simple phrase, one I had declared defiantly only a while ago. I smiled through the pain that still wracked my body, closing my eyes and shouting out for the entire world to hear.

"LUFFY IS THE MAN WHO WILL BE THE PIRATE KING!"

Coming Up: Chapter 2 - Ode of True Bonds