I just want you guys to know… I cried… so hard… writing this.
Not just because it's the final chapter. Not just because I'm so happy and so grateful to you guys for sticking with it until the end. But because I had to write these scenes. I've made it official: Bink's Sake on violin is the saddest music I have ever heard in my entire life. Not even some of the OSTs from Fairy Tail are as sad as that, and that's saying something if you watch Fairy Tail, that is.
The answer to the puzzle will be revealed at the bottom of this chapter. Try and figure it out before then. :) I'll give you a hint below the Review Corner. Thank you guys again, and be sure to look for Whispers in the Dark, coming out soon!
NinjaSheik – So much happiness, indeed. It was difficult to figure out what I wanted to do, but apparently it turned out okay. I see what you mean when you say I switch between English and Japanese. I do need to decide, don't I? But I dunno, I kind of like it. Thank you so much for following through to the end.
00000000000000000000Zero0000 – The Myth Island arc is like a filler arc, or kind of like an insertion into the main plot. In other words, no, the crew doesn't know. Only Sanji, Brook, Robin and Zoro himself, though only Robin and Zoro know it all the way through, having shared memories. And I suppose a combination of all of those. Even if it's dead, a body can still take damage, and coming back to that would be pretty painful, wouldn't you agree? After all, in the canon, he was out cold for nearly five days after Sanji found him. I'm sure he'd take some additional damage.
graceling42 – Since I didn't have a Chopper quote, but I wanted to use the Hiruluk, I figured the doctor would be a suitable candidate. I don't think I've written him before, and I quite honestly believe I won't do it again. XD But I'm glad it turned out good. Well… you have until the end of the chapter. But the hint is right below the review corner. Let's see if you get it. Should be pretty obvious. Well… he was made without a heart. Nathan Fillon. I don't watch Castle, so I wouldn't know. The only reason I knew that is because I looked it up when I saw the screen shot on my Facebook newsfeed. XD
Kaitaru Stark-Laufeyson – You, woman, have some explaining to do on your latest Black as Knight chapter. But seeing as this is a review reply, I'll let you go. But you'd better sleep with one eye open, missy. Just because I'm halfway across the world doesn't mean I don't have teleporting abilities. XP Actually, in ranking close to Zoro, I'd say Luffy first, Robin second, and Chopper third. But we're entitled to our opinions. And as for procrastination… I'm supposed to be doing Pre-Calculus homework as I'm finishing this chapter up. You're welcome. Thanks for following!
Mugiwara Wolf Spirite – Like I told Zero, the Myth Island arc is like a filler arc, or kind of like an insertion into the main plot. In other words, no, the crew doesn't know. Technically, it's not a sequel, just like a continuation or another Zo/Ro story, but with references to Myth Island, etc. Couple of weeks… thanks… -_-"
dukefan01 – Thank you very much. For reference… don't listen to anything sad. At all. Period. Unless you want to cry. Thank you so much for following! :D
blueper – Tough-guy Zoro cracks me up. Thank you so much for following this to the end. Enjoy the Epilogue, and thanks for your review!
Nami Swannn – Zoro is finally back with the crew and ready to continue their adventures. But I'm kind of scared not everyone will like the first few chapters of Whispers. Thank you so much for toughing it out this whole time, and enjoy the epilogue.
Chapter 17 – Epilogue: Until We Meet Again
"Before the heart of truth,
there is no need for words."
Something exploded. Dust and debris billowed outward, masking the source, but at that moment, whatever caused it was put out of my mind. A scream overlapped the huge noise, followed by the early inaudible sound of a body collapsing.
At first I didn't think much of it. Old habits were kicking in, to just leave them to take care of themselves. When faced with a threat like a Pacifista, it was all you could do to save your own skin. I continued to run until I heard Usopp's voice over the din.
"Zoro! Zoro was hit by a beam!"
I stopped short, the words freezing in my heart. The dust cleared, and a tall man in a yellow suit and marine admiral cloak appeared from the depths. "Kizaru!?" I whispered in fear. He stood over where Zoro lay shaking in the grass, blood staining the back of his red and white shirt. Red droplets stained the green stalks by his mouth, chest heaving.
I could only watch as the admiral's Devil Fruit began to kick in, his foot shining brightly as it was raised directly above Zoro's huddled form. He hadn't fully recovered from our ordeal in Valhalla and Myth Island, and it was showing at the worst possible time. There was no way he could defend himself in his condition.
"Zoro!" Luffy screamed.
"He can fire a laser!" Franky exclaimed. "This is bad! If Zoro-bro gets hit at such a close range, he'll die!"
"Zoro's in trouble!" The look on our captain's face was horrifying. Such a look of pain I'd never witnessed before. The thought of losing his first mate and best friend for the second time, so soon after Thriller Bark and Myth Island, ripped him to shreds. "USOPP!"
The yell jerked the sniper, who was closest to Zoro, into motion. "You – stop it!" he threatened weakly, aiming his kabuto at the admiral, who continued to stand there casually, as if silently torturing us. The long-nosed teen fired a shot straight toward his forehead, but the lead ball passed clean through Kizaru's face. Stunned, Usopp tried again, and again, but each attack ended the same as the first. "Damn it! Why!? I can't hit him!"
Brook ran forward now, thrusting his sword through Kizaru's chest, holy to find no blood spurted from the strike. "I can't stab him, either! What do we do!?"
Kizaru took the following attacks without so much as a a bat of the eye, not even registering Usopp and Brook's requests for him to move and leave Zoro alone. Finally, he appeared to decide to reveal the source of his inability to be shot or stabbed. "It's no use," he drawled. "I ate the Pika Pika no mi. I'm a light man. Logia type."
"A light man?" Franky echoed.
"You're kidding, right?" Nami trembled. "Zoro's gonna die!"
"Zoro! RUN!" Chopper screamed, tears streaming from his eyes. "Zoro!"
I could only watch in stunned silence. My limbs were frozen, and wouldn't move when I tried. Was it fear or anger rooting me to the spot? Whatever the reason, I couldn't do anything to help the hapless swordsman.
Zoro slowly shifted, murmuring into the grass, voice laced with pain. "My body… won't move…"
"No use!" Sanji translated. "That guy is at his limit already!"
I finally managed to regain control of my own limbs at the thought of losing Zoro permanently this time. If we couldn't 'move the admiral, then we'd move Zoro. I crossed my arms over my chest. "Veinte Fleur!"
Arms bloomed from the ground next to his immobile body, the texture of the fabric pressing into my palms as I latched on to the back of his shirt and began to roll him out from under Kizaru's foot. I didn't bother to grab the discarded sword he had borrowed from somewhere. What mattered was his life. His eyes found me as he rolled over, and I detected an unspoken thank you.
"Alright!" Usopp cheered. "Great, Robin!"
Kizaru, however, had other plans. He transformed into light and reformed directly over the path I was rolling. It was too close to change course, and I could only watch as the user's foot slammed into Zoro's back, pinning him to the grass. I pulled harder at his shirt, but a part of me knew it was futile.
"He – just got over there in an instant!" Usopp stammered.
"I won't let you get away…" Kizaru stated slowly. "It's useless. You die now."
Silence swept across the archipelago as every Straw Hat pirate silently screamed Zoro's name, each person terrified at the thought of losing Zoro once again. But none were more terrified or saddened than I.
A figure sped across the ground, faster than my eyes could follow. He slammed into Kizaru, redirecting the laser beam of light into a giant tree, the explosion shaking the very ground beneath our feet.
Zoro groaned as Kizaru stepped off him. "So now you decide to show yourself, Dark King Rayleigh?"
My eyes widened. Sure enough, the Pirate king Gol D. Roger's first mate stood opposite the marine admiral, having just saved Zoro's life. "I won't let you take out these youngsters," Rayleigh said matter-of-factly. "Their era is just beginning!"
"Pops!" Luffy yelled, fear still present in his voice.
"He saved him," Franky observed as some of the crew collapsed in exhaustion. I couldn't help but smile in relief, but this relief was short lived.
"Usopp, Brook!" Luffy yelled from across the archipelago. "Take Zoro and run!"
"Right!" Usopp gathered Zoro into his arms and ran, the skeletal musician right behind him.
"Everyone, think only of how to escape!" Luffy ordered. "Right now, we can't beat these guys!" I never thought I would hear those words from our captain's mouth, a captain who never ran from a fight, a captain who would loudly declare he would kick any and everyone's ass for so much as insulting one of his nakama.
Everyone split up into groups of three. Nami, Franky and Sanji took off together while Chopper, Luffy and I fled the scene. Usopp, Brook and Zoro had already disappeared somewhere inside the mass of trees. Meanwhile, Rayeligh and Kizaru had begun a dramatic sword battle, explosions causing the very island to rumble in protest.
Two explosions that didn't originate from their battle, however, drew our attention to the space behind a massive root in the direction Usopp Brook and Zoro had fled. No doubt a beam from a Pacifista. But there was no way to tell what had happened, and Luffy immediately veered in their direction, Chopper and I close behind.
"They're in trouble over there," Luffy panted, but an attack from Sentomaru drew his attention.
"Luffy!" Chopper yelled as the captain was sent flying back into a building. "How can he hurt a rubberman!?"
"Chopper, don't stop!" I reminded him breathlessly.
We whipped around just in time to see the cook take a direct hit from a Pacifista. Not a moment later, another beam directed at Usopp forced the sniper to accidentally drop Zoro's limp body to the ground, which suddenly spasmed as Zoro grunted in discomfort. That appeared to be the last straw for Chopper, who grew to Heavy Point, simultaneously popping three Rumble Balls into his mouth. The doctor instantly transformed into a massive beast twenty times his normal size, roaring like an ancient dinosaur.
"I had heard of this…" I whispered, recalling stories I had been told during the storming of Enies Lobby. It was more terrifying and powerful than I had dared to imagine. I rushed to where Luffy remained in the rubble of the collapsed building, managing to pull him to safety just before a boulder flattened us.
"ANOTHER ONE SHOWED UP!" Usopp's voice screamed.
True to his word, another Kuma had appeared, but this one seemed different. It appeared to be having a conversation with Zoro, who had somehow managed to lurch to his feet, his entire body shaking uncontrollably. As the bear-man made to remove the glove from his hand, I became instantly convinced this was the real Shichibukai Bartolomew Kuma.
"If you were to go on vacation, where would you like to go?"
"O-oi… Zoro…" Usopp whispered, reaching out toward the swordsman. "If you don't run…"
Kuma raised his hand. Zoro's head turned, somehow knowing which direction I was standing. Our eyes connected for the briefest of moments. His mouth moved, trying to form words, but before he could finish, the warlord's hand descended.
I blinked. Zoro had disappeared.
"ZORO!" Luffy screamed.
A roar drew my attention, and I wrapped my arms around my captain's chest and leaped to the side just in time to avoid monster-Chopper's hand crashing down on top of us. "Stop, Chopper!" I yelled once I had regained my stance. "Don't be reckless!"
"WHERE DID ZORO GO!?" Luffy continued screaming. He whipped around, glaring at where Sentomaru stood a few feet away. "Oi! What did he do to Zoro!? Where did he go!? Answer me, dammit!"
"I have no obligation to answer," Sentomaru said roughly. "I'm the most tight-lipped man in the world." Despite his words, the rotund marine side-eyed us. "They say that anyone who gets blasted by his pads is sent flying for three days and three nights, though I'm not sure whether it's true or not." Luffy choked on a breath, eyes wide with horror. "Nobody except the person who was sent flying knows where to, though… but it definitely won't be on this island, or anywhere else where you might meet them anytime soon. They might end up on the edge of some distant sea. But you can guarantee you'll never see them again."
"What!?" Luffy glanced toward where Usopp, Brook and Sanji lay half-dead at the Warlord and Pacifista's mercy. However, Kuma surprised everyone by blasting PX-1 away, the cyborg flying off into the distance. "You three, run!" Luffy ordered. "Run away! We'll thing this through once we're safe!"
We never got the chance. One by one, the rest of us succumbed to the power of the Shichibukai. Brook vanished next, attempting to protect Usopp as he tried to get Sanji to safety. Usopp was the next to disappear, having been discarded for his safety by the enraged cook. This roused Sanji into a greater state of anger, but that anger proved his downfall, and the world-class chef disappeared midair, leaving nothing but a blast of wind behind. Luffy burst into Gear Second, ignoring my warning to not let his rage overcome him, but despite his fearsome power, Franky vanished with a small pop. Our brilliant navigator followed immediately after, Luffy desperately screaming her name. Chopper roared again, his enormous form reaching out for the bear-man, but in the blink of an eye, even that monstrous body had been sent flying.
Zoro. Brook. Usopp. Sanji. Franky. Nami. Chopper. Only Luffy and I were left.
The captain was a wreck. Eyes blinded by fear and rage and hopelessness, confidence shattered. His body was beaten and battered, mental exhaustion taking its toll on his mind. Watching his beloved nakama vanish right before his eyes. He may not have realized it, but I took the blows as hard as he did. Under previous circumstances, I wouldn't care if the crew became separated like this. But because I had grown to love them, the entire family, the family I never had, was falling apart.
I somehow wasn't surprised as Kuma slowly began to walk in my direction. Frightened, yes, but not surprised. I backed away from him, my own body depleted of energy, but I wouldn't stop running. I'd had twenty years of practice, after all. Luffy, still trying to recover from the loss of the navigator and doctor, was too far to reach me in time, but he tried anyway. "Robin!" he yelled, putting one last ditch effort to save me, reaching out his arm, fingers extended.
"Luffy!" I yelled back, stretching out to meet him, but I knew inside it was too late.
Until we meet again.
Shaboady Archipelago blinked from existence.
- 2 Years Later -
"It's been a long time, everybody!" Brook chortled merrily, standing from where he had gracefully landed on the deck of the Thousand Sunny where Nami, Usopp, Franky and I had already congregated. The old skeleton looked practically the same since I had last seen him two years ago, but now he wore floral pants and a long-sleeved suit with a bright orange feather boa scarf around his shoulders. And odd combination, I'd admit, but a nice one all the same.
"You two have become even more beautiful," the musician continued, turning tto look where Nami and I sat side by side on the bench. He moved and sat on a nearby barrel, crossing one leg over the other. "Alright, Nami-san! It's been two years so…"
"Oh, are you going to sing for us?" The nearly unrecognizable sharpshooter asked excitedly.
Brook opened his mouth, appearing to be answering Usopp's request until he comically fooled us. "Could I look at your panties –"
"What do you think?!" Nami screeched, sending Soul King trembling to the deck with a powerful sideswipe. "I never let you see them, even two years ago!"
"I'm so excited to see you again… see? It's shaking my soul… Although I don't have a soul to be shaken…"
"Hey, the big star is having a spasm," Usopp commented plainly.
"Honestly," Nami sighed. "None of you guys have grown up."
"By the way," Brook continued after regaining his composure. "I don't see everyone here yet." It was true; the musician had noted the absence of Chopper, Sanji, Luffy and Zoro.
"Yes," I explained with a smile. "Chopper went to get them."
There was a tug on my heart at the thought of seeing thee swordsman again. My last memory of him was not a pretty one, a time of despair, fear, and hopelessness. I wanted to replace that memory with one of our reunion after two long years of separation. I wondered how much he had changed, if he changed at all. I didn't fool myself into thinking he would come back wearing his usual white shirt, haramaki and black pants, bandanna round his left arm, snoring loudly on the deck.
As if on cue, a familiar yell resounded toward us, and we all turned to face the direction from which the cry had come. Fro the trees came the massive multicolored bird Chopper had brought with him, but three more figures could now be seen alongside the tiny doctor.
"Here they come!" Franky said cheerfully.
"Hey!" Luffy yelled again, the happiness on his face overwhelming. One could almost never guess the tragedies that had befallen him. "Everyone!" As he drew closer, our captain's face slowly grew clearer. His visage had become older and more defined, losing some of the boyish features he had two years ago. The nineteen year old had traded his sleeveless vest with a cardigan and a yellow sash.
I saw Sanji next. The cook had grown taller, the beginnings of a beard stubbing his chin. His hair was longer as well, the yellow bangs swept to the other side of his face to reveal his left eye, the brow spiraling downwards. He had not lost his crisp black suit, nor the cigarette dangling from between his lips spread into a wide smile.
My eyes finally found Zoro, Chopper perched on his shoulder as usual. The swordsman, as if sensing my eyes upon him, turned his head to meet me, smiling gently. He was definitely buffer than I remembered, taller and covered with more scars, including one over his left eye. I guessed it was safe to assume it was useless now. Now he wore a long green yukata and red sash, the three swords stuck through his prized haramaki.
"I brought them!" Chopper greeted.
"Luffy, Zoro, Sanji!" Usopp cheered.
"Hey!" Nami waved, a bright grin on her elegant countenance.
I smiled widely as the family was once again reunited, not moving my eyes for an instant from the approaching men.
"You guys sure do look stronger!" Franky praised.
"Luffy-san!" Brook sobbed. "I missed you so much!"
"We're all together again," Usopp voiced everyone's inner most feelings, wiping a stray tear from his eye.
The bird landed, and Luffy, Zoro and Chopper disembarked as Usopp went to collect Sanji from the red ocean. I hoped the cook wouldn't bleed to death after the amount of blood spurting from his nose with such force to knock him from the bird's back. Luffy marveled over Franky's reinforced body as Chopper sent his newfound friend along his way. Zoro, however, only had eyes for me, and he paced across the deck rapidly to where I stood near the opposite rail, watching.
"Robin," he said, and that was all he needed to say before I threw myself at him, connecting our lips in a passionate kiss. He returned it strongly, arms wrapped around my waist in the way I had so missed during our separation. Words didn't need to describe how much each of us had ached for the other, not knowing anything of their whereabouts. Zoro and I let the kiss do the talking.
"Get a room," someone, probably Nami, said, but I paid no mind.
We broke apart for breath, and I simply stood there and relished the presence of the man whom I loved. His physical warmth engulfed me, the feeling of safety and comfort I had not felt during all my years running from the World Government. The person who had taught me to love, involuntarily of course, was here, alive and breathing, holding me tight against him like he couldn't bear to let me go.
The ship was suddenly rocked as a cannonball crashed into the ocean directly beside us. Everyone rushed to the railing, beholding the three Navy warships approaching Shaboady Archipelago and aiming straight for us.
"Just like old times," Zoro chuckled.
I nodded. "Just like old times."
In no time at all, the coating was inflated, and the Straw Hat pirates yelled triumphantly as the Thousand Sunny sank beneath the waves, leaving behind the beautiful island.
Shaboady Archipelago. The place of our death. And the place of our rebirth.
Well… that's all, I regret to say. This is the completion of the Stuff of Legends. Thank you all again so much for following this through to the end. I've never had such an amazing turnout for a story. As I finish this chapter, the stats stand thus:
Followers – 120
Favorites – 91
Communities – 2
Reviews – 225
Overall Views – 20,521
Thank you all so much again. And here's what you've been looking for! The answer to the puzzle! I gave you the hint above, and if if you figured it out, congratulations! If not, here we go:
The hint was Chapter – E. This means look at the chapter drop down menu, indicating chapter titles. The letter E tells you to look at the first letter of each Chapter. If you do this, it spells out:
Which then says: Zoro x Robin For Life.
Those who figured out the puzzle mention it in the review or shoot me a PM, and expect a sneak preview at the sequel, Whispers in the Dark. But don't worry, if you didn't get it, I'll leave you something, too, as a token of my appreciation:
"You get rid of it," Zoro said. "Or you get rid of me."
I don't want to drag this out any longer than it needs to be.
So until the next adventure, this is Santoryuu3, singing off.