Chapter 14 - Newcomer
Sanji clutched the swords close as he was led at gunpoint through a labyrinth of twisted hallways. The slightly beaten and grumpy "men" who were pushing him onwards to god-knew-where had already tried snatching the weapons away from him once, and he was not about to let them get their leather-gloved hands on Zoro's possessions.
He had stolen them, so they were his responsibility. Sanji grimaced when the rhythm of high heels clicking against the brickwork started grating on his eardrums. The cook glanced down at the man next to him, immediately regretting his curiosity when he saw the leather boots and fishnet stocking seemed to end in some sort of miniature leather skirt.
He shuddered. Okama.
Sanji had no idea where he was being led; he could tell that the strange echo was becoming louder and clearer with each second that passed, and the heady smell of perfume and sweat was starting to hurt his nostrils.
"Where are you taking me?" Sanji tried again, but these damn Okama weren't telling him anything. Should he risk running off and having to hide the swords somewhere else? If he couldn't use these tunnels, it would be impossible to even try to get Zoro out.
"To our King-Queen," the man to the right said casually, lipstick smeared down his bottom lip sloppily. Sanji's curled eyebrow twitched at the sight; even he could put on lipstick better than that. If those shitty bastards wanted to live their life dressing like women, at least they could do it properly!
Don't disrespect women with your half-assed makeup attempts!
The noise got louder; it sounded like music and laughter. How long had it been since he had heard music? It felt like music had been a part of another life, another reality. It sounded almost surreal, the sound of instruments and laughter and singing. Happy? Was anyone allowed to be happy in Impel Down?
It was like Impel Down took everything that made you happy and tore it out of your heart. Music made him happy; why was it here? Why wasn't it locked away with the ocean, sun, and Zoro?
The men turned a corner, dragging Sanji away from the music and the heady smell of perfume and pheromones and down to a dark and roughly carved room. It was noticeably colder down that hallway and eerily quiet. Sanji stumbled forward, clutching the swords close as he was forced into a room that was completely empty save for a single chair in the center of the room and an array of boxes that seemed to be full of clothing.
"Ah. Sanji the Chef." An elegant voice and the sound of a soft sip from a glass of wine startled Sanji almost enough to make him drop the weapons. "Take a seat."
Sanji stared at the man before him. Orange and white? Right down the middle? He didn't want to sit down; his legs were his weapon and he wasn't about to sheathe them. The way the two-color newcomer's hands extended from his sides bothered him: straight out by the sides, almost like he was holding a weapon.
"Who are you?" Sanji demanded, trying to keep the nerves from messing up his threatening tone. "You are the ones who made these tunnels?" Sanji found it hard to believe a society of Okama somehow decided to dig a tunnel through the most secure prison in the world.
"We're not the ones who dug it even if we did refine it. A prisoner with a digging devil fruit made these years ago." The man brought a glass of wine to his lips, carefully, like he had extremely long nails or claws. He reminded Sanji of that stuck up cat-pirate Zoro had told him about, he had long swords attached to his gloves and couldn't bring them to his face either.
He didn't feel comfortable; he always got a little twitchy around Okama. He liked his women ladylike and his men masculine. He'd grown up at sea: masculine men were what he was comfortable around, but he had no idea what was going on in the head of an Okama. It was strange and unnerving, not knowing what to expect.
"I am Inazuma," the dual-colored man told Sanji in the same indifferent voice as before; it was too hard to read his pokerface. "We have been watching you, Sanji-kun."
Sanji's stomach took a nosedive. What was that supposed to mean? how much did they know?
"W-who are 'we'!?" Sanji demanded; the swords clattered in his arms, secured tightly by the tattered and dirty haramaki. He didn't like this; what if they had told someone? What if Hannyabal or Magellan were just playing around with him?
"That is not mine to tell, Sanji-kun." Inazuma lowered his glass, his two-tone spectacles glimmering as he glared over their edge. "Come with me." The man turned around casually, waiting for Sanji to do as he asked.
"I refuse!" Sanji barked, fuming and confused. "I want nothing to do with you and your 'queen'! What makes you think that—?"
"Roronoa Zoro." Inazuma's voice instantly silenced the entire room.
Sanji's blood ran a little colder. They knew. They knew his weakness, the one thing physically close enough to him in his life to use against him. It was over. Sanji's cunning mind clicked from one possible lie to another, yet none of them were good enough to get out of this situation. With every silent second, the odds in his favor steadily dwindled away.
Sanji took a hesitant step towards Inazuma, who didn't even glance over his shoulder and started walking. He walked in a very peculiar way, his back and arms straighter than Sanji had thought Zoro was when they first met.
It took slight effort to keep up, with the distracting sounds and laughter coming from almost every room they passed. Sanji's keen hearing detected the beautiful alto and high pitches of women's voices along with some grating Okama shrieks. Male voices were supposed to be deep and preferably a little husky, and why were there women down here?!
There turned out to be an ample supply of both genders in Newkama Land. Inazuma opened the door with a single push, revealing a large hall with a bar, tables, and even a stage! A STAGE! With lights and a microphone and everything!
Sanji walked past, the smell of perfume and testosterone numbing his brain as they made their way between tables. There were Okamas everywhere: men in fishnet stockings and heels, men in dresses, and even women wearing manlier clothing than Sanji had even seen on a man!
Sanji felt eyes run over his body; he felt hot and cold at the same time. If the men around this place stared any harder at his backside, he'd probably combust. A hairy hand clad in a lovely glove caught his arm, pulling him towards a table and almost causing Sanji to trip in surprise.
"Ah! It's a newcomer!" the man, who was wearing something similar to a leather mask, yelled out joyfully, raising his glass while he held Sanji in place with his other hand. "Let's welcome the handsome new addition to—"
Sanji smacked his leg onto the table, causing all the men around the table to stare at him with shocked expressions. Yanking his arm free, Sanji took a step back, clutching the swords protectively, unsure if he was protecting himself or the swords.
"Don't yank on me like that, you bastard!" Sanji spat out, his head was buzzing with adrenaline and nicotine withdrawal. "You almost made me drop the swords!" Sanji huffed in outrage, glancing around for Inazuma, who was gone.
The men at the table started laughing, and a couple of other tables around him joined in, a few lovely women giggling elegantly.
"Sorry, sorry. My bad" The man in the mask raised his hands as he stopped laughing. "I didn't know you were taken."
"T-taken!?" Sanji practically howled in shock. "W-what makes you think I'm—"
"Those belong to your boyfriend, don't they?" a lovely woman at the table beside Sanji said in a rather masculine voice, pointing a long finger towards the swords in Sanji's arms. "You are practically shielding yourself with them.
"He's not my boyfriend!" Sanji was outraged and flushing hard. He hated this: he felt so lost and out of place; only the sight of the beautiful woman was making this better. But that Inazuma guy was gone, and he was completely surrounded by Okama. Where was he supposed to go?
Suddenly, the lights dimmed slightly, and the entire hall of people began chanting for 'IVAN-sama'. Sanji's heart started beating a bit faster, falling into rhythm with the chants as the music began. What was this place? Why were all these people so happy and carefree? Maybe he had hit his head or fallen asleep. Maybe he was dead and had gone to hell?
The spotlight illuminated a giant purple afro, easily three times the size of normal-human-sized hair. There was a red swimsuit and fishnet stockings there too, but Sanji decided to censor that out of his mind to try to keep his sanity. There was a wiggle of a butt, the spandex-like material stretched perfectly around the inner bend of the buttocks, and the fishnet cape swung from side to side.
"Welcome, candy boy." An effeminate voice with a hint of seduction caught the microphone, seemingly filling the room. The entire horde of people wolf whistled and yelled out something about the strange pervert on stage being 'sexy'.
"Or would you rather I call you Sanji-boy~?"
The shudder that travelled up Sanji's spine at that moment was visible even from the very back of the room. Sanji stood there, paralyzed in shock, when the man on stage turned around, purple lipstick and swimsuit neatly curved around his groin in a spirited attempt to conceal as little as possible.
"Relax! Here we have everything: drinks and food, games and music!" Ivankov continued; a few scantily clad men began dancing on the stage on either side of him as he spoke. "We have been watching you, candy boy~." Ivankov's purple lips stretched in a very mischievous smile. "You've been very naughty, but that's alright here! HEE-HAW!"
The entire hall raised their glasses, joining Ivankov in another loud "HEE-HAW" before the giant-headed man began dancing along with his fellow perverts on stage. Sanji was frozen in horror, unable to move. He wasn't sure what horrified him more: the sight in front of him or the fact that seemingly every single person in this room knew about his crimes.
"Don't look so scared, candy boy!" Ivankov jumped from the stage, landing smack in the middle of a table right in front of Sanji. The blond was at eye level with the jiggling spandex-clad groin. His head was spinning; he didn't want to be here.
"Why have you been watching me, you bastards?! Are you some kind of perverts!?" Sanji glared up at the larger man in front of him. What was the deal with his chin? Was it an arrowhead?
"We have been watching you, candy boy, since you stumbled into our tunnels!" Ivankov stepped down, running a red-gloved finger over Sanji's jaw until the blond yanked back his head and backed up, bathed in cold sweat. He hugged the swords close, not quite sure why they made him feel a little more at ease.
Ivankov laughed in an elegant manner, yet his laughter was as elegant as you would expect from a man with a mouth the size of an average dinner table. It was grating and actually a little pretentious.
"Ah, candy boy." Ivankov hushed, forcibly pushing Sanji towards the stage. His heels dug into the brickwork as the transvestites around him cheered him on. "This is Newkama Land, Level 5.5, the Paradise in Hell!"
"Enough bullshit!" Sanji growled, jumping forward and turning around, cigarette blazing as he pointed at Ivankov. "Are you telling me that all the prisoners who have disappeared so far are all here? Dressed as women!?"
Ivankov's tone dropped, becoming dangerous as well as silken. "Hmm, not only dressed as women, candy boy!" Something like nails protruded from Ivankov's fingertips, and the massive man stabbed himself in the masculine side. "In here, you are free to be what you want to be!"
Sanji could barely believe what he was seeing when Ivankov's body morphed into a female right before his eyes. Breasts sprung out from the flat chest, and the buttocks blossomed in the swimsuit with an audible 'plop'.
He was never going to get that sound out of his head. Ever.
"HEE-HAW!" Ivankov stood there in all his female glory, his head at least slightly more proportionate to his body in the more curvaceous form.
Sanji ogled the cleavage until he realized his position and grimaced. "What is going on here? and why are you telling me this?" Sanji barked demands; he was tired of being taken in so easily. He wasn't going to take any more of this.
"Hmm, a feisty one!" Ivankov purred, pointing to a door besides the stage. "Come with me, I'll explain the situation." His female hips swayed dramatically from side to side as he walked to the stage right dressing room. The movement hypnotized Sanji right up to the point when the older man suddenly turned male and the view changed drastically.
"I'm not going to let you make a fool out of me!" Sanji snarled as he refused to enter the room proper. "Why are you telling me this? I'm not going to stay here, you know! I could be a spy for the Warden!"
"I doubt that, candy boy. We have evidence of how naughty you have been the last few days." The giant-headed man sat in a throne-like seat and crossed his short and hairy legs. The rough fishnet stockings were pulled over his knees. What were those stockings stuck to anyway? Sanji couldn't see a garter belt or panty line anywhere, so either the stockings were tied directly to the spandex suit somehow or Ivankov was wearing a thong.
Sanji shuddered; he shouldn't be thinking about these things. He was cornered now; he could only begin to imagine all the "evidence" the damn king could have on him. The Warden didn't need anything more than a picture of him with the swords for it to be 'game over'.
"We have been keeping an eye on you since you stumbled into our tunnels in the storage room," Ivankov began, ignoring Sanji's insolence. "At first, we were going to catch you and make sure you didn't tell anyone about our tunnels." The queen winked playfully at Sanji. "But you've been putting them to good use, you naughty boy~." Sanji followed Ivankov's stare down to the swords in his arms.
"You have many fans in my candies; some of them came from Level 3 and owe their lives to your little… escapades~." The door in the back of the room opened. "One in particular believed you could be trusted." Inazuma and a lovely young lady entered the room. Sanji instantly livened up when he saw the cute woman who hid timidly behind Inazuma.
"The reason we gave you the benefit of the doubt was because this candy begged us to."
"Oh! The heavens have smiled upon me!" Sanji swooned over, bowing gracefully, and took the elegant hand in his, raising it to his lips as the swords clattered jealously in his arms. "Ah~ such a lovely woman has faith in me?"
"O-of course, Sanji-kun." The woman smiled, and Sanji's face fell. He knew that face.
"Sh-Shukaku?" Sanji gaped; the woman only smiled back, retracting her hand shyly.
"W-wha?" Sanji was so confused. It was logical that Shukaku would be here if this was where those who were spirited away went, but… a female?
"I already told you, candy boy." Ivankov laughed and took his position besides Sanji. "This is a garden of freedom! You can be anything you want!"
"Shut up!" Sanji growled. "I am a man, and I don't want to change it!"
"Sanji-kun!" Shukaku caught Sanji's attention like only a female could. "I know you are unhappy in Impel Down, and even if you don't want to stay here in Level 5.5, then you could beg Ivan-sama to help you escape!"
Sanji stared. Escape? From Impel Down?
"Mmm~. This isn't a charity case, candy boy," Ivankov began, his tone more serious than before. "We're criminals; we're not nice enough to just help anyone who asks. This is a serious offer. You are lucky that my candies like you." Ivankov's tone had a sadistic sting to it. "Since you saved so many of their lives, if you beg me, I'll help you escape this place."
Sanji's blood was rushing through his veins. This Ivankov clearly knew Impel Down better than anyone; to be able to snatch these prisoners and live like royalty inside the walls of Impel Down was amazing.
"Of course, from what we have seen, you are a very proud person. If you can't ask me honestly, I'm not going to be able to trust you, candy boy."
This would be his only chance, the one offer he couldn't let slip away. He had to grab it.
"Then…" Sanji's fists clenched as he turned to the Okama king, lowering his head respectfully as he gritted his teeth. This wasn't the time to doubt. This wasn't the time to cling to pride. He put the swords on the floor as he got down on all fours.
Ivankov's finely penciled eyebrow raised in amusement.
"Then please…" Sanji clenched his teeth painfully. He didn't want to beg like this; it wasn't his style. But he would. He had too.
"Please… GET ZORO OUT OF HERE."
There was a thick silence in the air. Even the distant sound of music seemed to have stopped. Ivankov seemed visibly startled, and if possible, Inazuma's back and arms were stiffer than usual. He felt the stare of the two transvestites and the former male on him.
Ivankov watched in admiration as Sanji looked up to meet his gaze. There was passion there, determination. From what he had heard, Sanji the cook was a fiercely proud man. For him to beg like this, it had to be for someone else's sake.
"Sanji-kun!" Shukaku recovered from his shock and bit on his lower lip in frustration. "You won't get out if—"
"Like hell I am," Sanji growled. "I can't leave anyway, so I would like Zoro to be the one who is saved! He has a dream he needs to accomplish. A captain he needs to help." His voice was nearing breaking at this point. He didn't want Zoro to go. He selfishly wanted to keep Zoro with him. What was that old saying Zeff had told him? If you love something, let it go?
"But, Sanji-kun don't you want to leave—?"
"Silence, Candy-chan." Ivankov raised a hand to cover Shukaku's red-painted lips. "There are some bonds that can't be broken, even behind bars." Ivankov smiled to Inazuma, who nodded stoically.
Sanji stood up, glaring from one Okama to the other. "Will you do it? Will you get Zoro out of Impel Down?"
Ivankov simply smirked and rubbed his purple-colored lips together to even out his lipstick. "It is one thing to sneak you out of Impel Down, candy boy." Ivankov's voice sounded almost regretful. "Breaking out a wanted man like your boyfriend is a whole different matter."
"NOT MY BOYFRIEND."
"But I like you. You have spirit," Ivankov said in a smooth tone, waving Shukaku out of the room as he opened the door. The woman cast a sad glance at Sanji before she disappeared down the hallway.
"I can help you reunite with your lover-boy, but I'm not going to be able to get him out." Ivankov waited for Inazuma to exit the room. "It's not yet time for me to break out of here." The Okama king walked out of the room, and after a brief pause, the reluctant blond followed.
"Th-that's fine!" Sanji felt the heat in his cheeks. If they could get Zoro to disappear while Sanji was standing next to Magellan or under surveillance, then there would be no way to blame it on him. He'd be safe and could maybe even spend some worry-free time with Zoro. He could talk to him freely, give him the swords.
Sanji's heart was beating a little faster now with excitement. The idea of spending time with Zoro as an equal was thrilling. Then maybe they could… pick up where they'd left off last? The idea alone made Sanji's lips tingle.
Ivankov and Inazuma led Sanji into a room full of monitors and maps. It was like every single visual den den mushi in the entire prison was being tapped by the Okama. This place was a gold mine of information. Sanji looked from one wall of monitors to the other: images of guards, prisoners, and even the kitchen flickered across the screens.
Sanji walked to a monitor showing a live feed from Magellan's office, where the demon-man was busy reading over paperwork; on the screen beside it, Hannyabal was putting on something akin to Magellan's uniform and saluting himself in the mirror.
"This is amazing. You see everything that happens in here." Sanji breathed out, tucking a cigarette between his lips as he watched Hannyabal do a little dance.
"That's how we have been watching you, candy boy." Magellan sang as he walked to the back of the room. "Magellan has been very thorough in watching you since he realized you stole THESE." Ivankov's finger trailed up the silken white fabric on the Wado.
"How did he know it was me?" Sanji took a step back; he didn't want just anyone to touch the swords he was responsible for. "It could have been someone outside the prison! How did he—?"
"Because of these, candy boy."
Inazuma tossed the bloodied rags Sanji recognized as Zoro's old clothing on the table in the center of the room. For a moment, he stared at them, trying to remember how the clothes could have given away that this was an inside job. When he realized, he cursed himself to North Blue and back.
He'd FOLDED them. He had actually found them discarded in a pile, and like the neat freak he was, he had FOLDED them! Sanji fought the urge to face-palm and instead sucked hard on his cigarette to calm his nerves.
"Seems like you understand." Ivankov laughed and sat down at the table. "These clothes didn't get sent to headquarters. It's understandable; they are practically rags. My candies didn't even bother collecting such un-cute clothes when they raided the storage room. If you hadn't snuck in there, they wouldn't have dropped those earrings you found in their hurry to escape the room either."
"Th-those were your doing?" Sanji's curled eyebrow raised in shock, and then it dawned on him. "Th-then, that uhm… snowball… yesterday?"
"HEE-HAW!" Ivankov smirked wide at Sanji, who was currently turning red like a tomato. "I told you that you had a few fans among my candies?"
"Th-then—"Sanji's cheeks flushed out to his ears.
"It was a little private show, and it had to end before the jailers crashed the party~."
Sanji's face was almost completely scarlet. "YOU PERVERTS!" He aimed a kick at Ivankov's massive head, yet his foot only caught air. Ivankov was falling backwards, slowly swaying from side to side.
"I'm falling… falling…. going to fall." For a second, Sanji wasn't sure if his foot had connected or not; usually, when he kicked something and hit it, it flew into a wall.
"NOT FALLING AT ALL. HEE-HAW!" Ivankov shouted and began laughing like a madman "Ah, your kicking requires work; it's nothing compared to newkama kenpo."
"Shut up!" Sanji yelled out, tired of this man's fooling around. Figuring it was alright for now, he placed the swords on the table, feeling how tired his arms had become from the weight of the swords.
"HEE-HAW!" Ivankov did a little bow, sitting at the table. When Sanji was about to do the same, Ivankov cleared his throat. "Before you sit down, candy boy, there is something in the back you might want to see." A leather-clad hand gestured to a few monitors in the back of the room.
Sanji suspiciously glanced from the swords and over at Ivankov, but eventually decided that the swords wouldn't do the Okama any good. He decided that it was time for him to place a little trust in the man he was about to work with to save Zoro from his cell.
The blond reluctantly turned away from the table, taking a few steps over to the back of the room and glancing over at the monitors. He flicked the ashes from his cigarette into an empty packet of cigarettes, trying to figure out what Ivankov wanted him to see.
For a minute, Sanji wondered why there would be four live feeds coming from an empty cell, until there was a soft movement at the back. Sanji almost dropped his cigarette when he saw him. Why did he have fresh bruises and bumps?
Zoro was chained to a wooden cross, his injured feet bare and partially buried in the sand from struggling, his arms twisted downwards and wrapped in chains as the sun beat down on his head from the ceiling bars. Clear streaks where sweat had washed away the 'sand' ran down Zoro's neck and chest, Sanji could see the signs of the onset of dehydration on his Marimo.
"You have good taste in men, candy boy." Ivankov's tone was more sympathetic now. "They beat on him a little earlier, and some lady, wearing the loveliest shade of pink, whipped him a bit to try to get him to talk ,and he didn't say a word."
Sanji's fists tightened; with the combined blood loss the Marimo had suffered the last few weeks and the heat, Zoro should already be feeling the telltale headache of dehydration. Sanji remembered it too well. He didn't wish this upon anyone. Zoro had to get out as soon as possible.
He tucked the cigarette back between his lips, rekindling the flare at the end with a sharp inhale as he turned around. The monitors cast an eerie glow on Sanji's silhouette that almost made him look like his determination was visible around him.
"Ivan-san" Sanji blew a long stream of smoke from between his firmly set lips. "I have a plan."
The stage is set.
I'm sorry that there wasn't much plot going on here, it's not a very action-y chapter but this is only the calm before the storm! I promise next chapter won't take as long to write as this one.
Thank you all for your wonderful comments! If it wasn't for them encouraging me each chapter would probably take twice as long! You guys remind me of the reason I put up this fic on the internet in the first place; for all to enjoy!
We'll thank my lovely beta for checking this chapter despite being sick; Thank you CopperClouds!