Oh my god I am a horrible person I'm so so so sorry that this update took so long!

I just finished my exams, and so I quickly whipped up this chapter... I'm sorry it's so horribly written D:

Thank you very very much for sticking around, and also a great big thank you to the new viewers and follows and favourites. I'll love you guys forever for putting up with my horribly infrequent updates and bad chapters xS Muah! I hope you enjoy this new chapter, even though it's not my best... /shrivels

His voice. He could hear him, Sanji; that guiding voice, melting in his ear. Soft, a distant melody, through the patter of the rain's drizzle.

Whispering his name.

He twitched, and sidestepped hastily at the 'click' of a flintlock. The hiss of a bullet ripped through air beside his ear, drilling into the one of the trees behind with a crack, sharp and cruel as thunder. It was a heads-up warning bullet, not intending to harm him. Too obvious to be aiming for a proper shot. At least, for the person who now held the flintlock - this devil was a professional, alright. He snapped his attention back to the man before him, clutching the girth of the tsuka - the hilts of his katana - that he held in each hand, disoriented. The cut in his left arm from barely dodging a bullet... it was stinging angrily, as the rainwater seeped through the tear in his skin. It must have cut a few millimetres in to his arm for it to throb in it's blunt, aching beats. After all, he was Zoro: the child assassin.

"Dozing off now, boy?" The deep, crackling voice seemed to smirk mockingly. Oh, how he wanted to kill this man right now... slice through his hideous body, stab him until he couldn't hear that thick voice of his that could make your throat feel sticky and hoarse just from the sound; decapitate him for all the people to see what horrors grace the world they live in. But right now... right now...

Sanji was there. He could just pick it up, that gentle princess voice. He could never mistake it for another. And if he could just hear him... then this ex-"boss" he was with could not.

'What are you doing here?!' Zoro wanted to cry out. 'I left for a reason, don't come after me!' God forbid, if Sanji could see who he was with, if he could even see him, however far he must be... around a hundred plus metres away, he presumed... What would Sanji do? Run to him? Call his name? Maybe if he weren't in such a situation, he'd like that to happen...

A crunch of the grass ahead being crushed under a large weight resonated in his ear, drawing Zoro from his thoughts. The steps were heavy as he walked around him: a predator circling it's prey. Thirsty for blood. Hungry. "What will it be then, hm?" A cackle of laughter. Zoro snarled as he sensed the man walk up close, his skin prickling in anger. "You don't have much of a choice!"

The green haired swordsman remained silent, the sounds of their breaths hefty through grit teeth. Rain plastered his hair to the sides of his head, sliding down the scabbard of his still-sheathed, precious white sword.

Well, what could he do anyways? He couldn't fight all out here, not in such a place with Sanji near them. Not in such a place that would catch people's attention, despite how deep they now were in the forest. He knew the extent of his own power - and had once seen what this man before him could do, back when he still had eyes. How ruthless. How insane. He, Zoro, would be risking everyone's life if he fought here. Especially that idiot cook he cared so much for.

And if he battled, Sanji surely would interfere, or even call Robin. Call for help. No one needed to know about this, for their own safety. His heart clenched in aggravation.

It was his business to deal with.

A rustling, like the ringing of air. Hundred meters, in the direction of Sanji's voice, was where it came from. Shit... Sanji, don't come any closer...!

... How far he had fallen, Zoro realised now. From a heartless murderer to this... even thinking about the consequences that would affect people's lives. Since... since that chef came into his poisoned life, he lost the ability to simply kill without a heartbeat's thought. He was cured, bit by bit, but at this moment what he'd lost was what he needed most.

"I'll go." He heard himself say, the urgency that willed to bubble out suppressed. "Let's go." As the man had said... he didn't have much of a choice. Not with Sanji; not really, at least.

An explosive, triumphant laugh. "Now you have some sense." His voice boomed. "Let's go... home, shall we?"

The sound of heavy footsteps and a cold, cold chuckling in front of him turned and walked, thankfully, oh God, thankfully in the opposite direction of which Sanji was. Zoro hurried after the man, desperate to leave quickly. Whatever the fuck was watching over him and Sanji right now...

Maybe finally they were doing something right for him. For them.

The two figures melted in to the distance, through the trees. Only the green haired swordsman paused, a breath, and turned his head a little, as if looking to see if Sanji was there with the eyes of a dream - but quickly turned his attention back to the man in the black coat, led away in deathly, shivering silence.

Muffled thumps from his own heart filled his head, throbbing at his ears. Zoro. Gone. Slipped the grasp that he should've held to tighter. If only he wasn't afraid. If only he had the power to diminish the pain. To get rid of that source of Zoro's hurt in one fell swoop, instead of quivering in the background, just waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

If he had the guts to leave the Baratie... why couldn't he go to Zoro just then?

He clutched the flimsy wet fabric of his shirt at the stomach and bit the skin of his bottom lip. His vision shook as he strained his eyes desperately, hoping to see a last glimpse through the thickets before they were truly gone. "Go! Find him!" his chest hammered. "Stay." Rationalised his mind.

Why was he so weak? The moist fabric crumpled feebly under the grasp of his tightening hands. A stuttering exhalation. He raised his head, and with a breath... simply murmured "Zoro..."

Standing, his legs shook unstably. What was with this sensation? He knew basic fear - where his hairs stood on end, his skin cold despite the depth of the pounding in his chest. What he currently felt was almost the same; just strengthen it tenfold with full body trembling added to the mixture.

Fear was no reason to stop him from going to Zoro though. It never should be. He had found the blind man quickly and the only explanation he had for it... was fate. As sickly sweet and cliché it sounded, he had found Zoro because they were connected somehow. He was pulled to Zoro. As if they were tied by unbreakable strings.

Ah, yes. The red thread of fate. That's what it must be.

They weren't only for those that were in a relationship, where one was female and one male... right?

Sanji breathed in deeply, his eyebrows furrowed, and exhaled in one go, expelling doubts. With a swift kick, he cut through the barrage of leaves before him, and ran through to where Zoro and that man stood before - through the knife branches and broken glass foliage that scratched and swiped at his pale, rain-soaked skin.

Scattered across the spot were a few trees - felled, piled over one another, with painful gashes in their dead bodies. Bullet holes were nestled into the soft ground, sheltered by the blades of grass, one watered with drizzles of... blood. Zoro's blood, slowly being washed away in the pitter-pattering droplets of rainfall, as if being cleansed. The chef felt a jolt snap through his body as he watched the crimson being weakened, thinned across the green and grey. 'This is what will happen to Zoro',he couldn't help but think. That strong swordsman would soon be no more, if he didn't do something. But what could he do?

As if the blood somehow had a life connection to the blind man, Sanji falteringly kneeled and covered the fading colour with his hands, protecting it. Yet the rain had already done its' work, leaving only a faint swirl of life on the cold soil.

"So you saw Zoro... with that man..." Robin frowned, closing her eyes as she thought. Her dark lashes shone in the flaring orange of the setting sun, casting feathered shadows across her smooth cheeks. "Then surely Zoro must've been of high ranking and strength when he was still with them."

"H-How so?" Sanji inquired, chewing anxiously at his lip. In the end, he'd returned to the hospital, and decided to tell Robin and Ace - despite how he somehow... knew Zoro wouldn't have liked it. The blind man was one to keep things to himself, wary and stubborn, hating it when people got in his way. He felt like he'd betrayed the blind man with his actions; but he was weak, he didn't know what to do...

The psychologist stood by the window, leaning gently against her bookshelves, with Ace seemingly turned to stone sitting on her desk. Sanji glanced at his friend in worry. Ace had his sturdy arms folded tight, his eyes dark, glaring at a spot on the floor. Watching as the man flexed his jaws, the blonde could feel only coldness wrap itself around him like a dry, flaking hand.

"For the big man to have to come out and fetch our Zoro himself, our patient obviously must've been extremely powerful. At least, powerful enough to be able to beat the other henchmen to a pulp but not enough to hurt him." answered Ace in a low voice.

"Yes, Zoro is a talented swordsman," Robin said in response to Sanji's look of surprise. "One of the best, if I may say so. No wonder he went so far to escape with his swords. I'm sure they have deep meaning to him as well."

Sanji felt a twinge of pride amidst the churning fear. He wanted so desperately to know how Zoro was, where he was, whether he's hurting. But just hearing of how amazing this man he... he loves... it made him proud, as if he were the one being praised. Now that he thought about it, he never actually told Zoro how he felt, did he?

By the window, Robin studied the chef in his little daze with her bright eyes, her head tilted to the left a slight. "Sanji, you mentioned that he said they were going home," She spoke suddenly, interrupting the man's musing. "He might've meant either Zoro's old village - Shimotsuki village - or an old base that Zoro would've known about, and stayed at for some time."

"If my undercover is in the right place, the mob he's currently infiltrated was the one who turned Shimotsuki in to an oil farm - which, just so you know, is actually just a few hour's boat ride from here." Ace clucked his tongue, rolling his shoulders back. "They also used it as a base for a while. Now, he's told me that they've been rather active around this area. They must have some connection to 'the Boss', seeing he is here too - because there's a correlation with the fact that he was the one who was in the photo and that the mob invaded afterwards, and now both are here. And clearly, just from the name that man is known by - 'Boss' - he doesn't work alone.

"Let's say he has his own... group, and the mob is of another. He wouldn't go kill off an entire village and allow this other mob to take all that oil, would he? Oil is expensive. This world practically runs on it. There is no reason for him to willingly hand over something worth so much for anything. Thus, we can come to a somewhat shaky conclusion that he is the 'Boss' of the mob. Still, we don't have evidence.

"Since the mob claimed the land soon after the massacre, we can safely assume they used it as their base in the early days that they and the 'Boss' had Zoro on his leash, as he took Zoro the day the massacre happened." He nodded slowly. "The now-oil farm is still under their control. We can't even kick them out because we don't have solid proof that they were the ones who were behind the massacre."

"Then we should go to the village!" Sanji grabbed Ace's shoulder. The raven-haired man jumped in shock. "It was once Zoro's home, and also their base. You know where the village is, don't you? We can just bust in, grab Zoro, and run! We could always deal with the rest later."

Ace shook his head, sighing in exasperation. "Sanji, do you really think we can pull that off? Against this group? We can't even 'deal with the rest' just yet. Like I said; no proof, no go."

The grip on the man's shoulder tightened, slim fingers painfully digging into his trapezius. He looked up, and was met with the anguished, battle-ready face of his best friend: glassy blue eyes quivering, his usual smooth golden hair tousled and barely hiding the other side of his face. A burning red bead of blood slid from the crack in the man's lower lip where he'd been biting at since he'd arrived. "Please, Ace," Sanji said through clenched teeth. "Once we get in... if Zoro's there, then what more evidence will we need? If we bring him back, and he can be our witness. Though he won't like it. He prefers dealing with things through fighting and arguing. Or sulking."

"I really wish we could do that, but it's not as simple as that." Ace frowned, glaring at the chef.

"It is as simple as that! When Zoro's back with us, we can sort out the proof and whatever the fuck needs to be done and return with full force!"

"Do not be so brash, Sanji," Robin's gentle voice seemed to soften the cutting edges of the desperation within the chef. He slowly let go of his friend, and brought his hand to his mouth to wipe away the blood, his head down in shame. "We all want to help Zoro, we truly do. We're not deliberately keeping you from him. You have to understand that procedures and time may get in the way, and simple correlations cannot be trusted - and even Zoro's evidence may not be enough. Even then will we have the mob and the 'Boss' on our tails when they find the swordsman missing. These people are merciless, and not at all weak. We cannot underestimate them at a time like this."

"For now, we should gather some people we can trust, and of course, are available. We're short on the attack force, so preferably people who can... protect themselves. We need to plan on how to gather the evidence, how to find and separate Zoro from the others if he's even there, how to get in and around..." The sound of Ace's talking seemed to blur in to the background.

Sanji could only press the palms of his hands to his eyes and hold back the frustration. How badly he wanted to find Zoro. Not having the man with him - it hurt: painful as being burned alive, slowly reduced to ash. He had no right to complain about this though. He knew Zoro surely must hurt even more. All that suffering from before must be flooding back into him, whipping him into submission, stabbing him until he could no longer stand on his own two feet. All he wanted now was to protect Zoro. Yet there were too many gaps in his plans to do anything.

It was as if there was a piece of him missing.

All he'd been to Zoro was a nuisance. It was time he became useful. It was time he stopped being worthless, only able to bicker and play the guitar for the blind man. It was time to prove that the moments and happiness and... kiss they shared wasn't out of pity. "I swear," He whispered. "I will free him, even if I have to do it myself.".

With watchful eyes, Sanji examined their group that they had somehow assembled within an hour. A buff man wearing only a tiny pair of shorts and Hawaiian shirt stood flexing his (strangely) cube-shaped muscles as Chopper clapped his petite hands in awe. The young doctor seemed to shrink significantly in size in comparison to the other, his eyes widening at the impressive sight. Robin had requested help from the two, claiming that the muscle-bound man, Franky, had a large stash of weapons and was also an engineer.

Even the long nosed Usopp stared at Franky in admiration from a corner of the crowded office. Having been dragged in by Chopper and Sanji despite being known for his cowardice, he was in a grouch and brought Luffy to support him - who in turn brought Nami, because he just "wanted to". This caused Ace to get in to a huff, as he didn't want his baby brother involved, and Sanji to retreat deeper into his hole of depression because he didn't want the women to get hurt. He knew his lying friend Usopp could just manage to take care of himself; being a keen engineer like Franky and with a sniper's accuracy with his treasured slingshot would have them at an advantage in far-range attacks. And when Luffy got serious, he was a monster. However, what were Robin and Nami capable of...?

For some strange reason, Ace had chosen to call out the musician from the Rumbar bar. The tall man, Brooke, poised with a cane in his pale glory as his afro was squashed slightly by the ceiling, simply smiled as he reached out to poke Luffy as Sanji stared rather rudely.

"Don't judge them just by what they look like!" Sanji aggressively thought as he found himself wondering who would be first to die. "Remember what Robin and Ace said..."

"I shall bring my friend Franky, and our little Chopper." Robin nodded, elegant swoops of her glossy hair sliding across her slender shoulders. "Franky doesn't have muscles just for show. He also has weaponry. Chopper learns kungfu, and I'm sure we will need medical aid in case... anything happens."

"Are you sure about Chopper? He's not even old enough to work in this hospital!" Ace countered. It would be unethical to bring in such a young boy to fight alongside them, especially against these people...

"I am sure. He is not weak." With a little smile that threatened 'don't-even-try-to-object-my-choices', the psychologist glared down the policeman until he hurriedly looked away and coughed, "Of course, of course. Uh, I'll bring Brooke, y'know, from the bar? He can fight pretty well with swords too. Well, just one sword, not like Zoro, but he's alright. Ah, and please keep quiet about this - our undercover's name is Law. If you come across him, he's an ally."

The blonde chef looked up at them. The clock ticked, counting the seconds of his worry - it was now 5:37 PM. Outside the window, the sunset was still afire in hazy ignited colours, matching the autumn leaves that swayed in harmony, flecks of the passed rain yet dripping from the ochre fronds, tranquil.

"I'll bring Usopp," He murmured. "He's got good aim."

Now, Sanji looked at their group, and couldn't help but think: "If Zoro was here... we'd be so powerful...". Never before had he wanted to find someone so badly. Well, he'd never felt such strong rushes of emotions for a person - let alone a man - before. He'd sworn he'd protect Zoro, and if he lost him, if he let those people take the blind man away, take his freedom... Then he'd have failed. That's right; he didn't refer to Zoro as his Zoro. Neither our or their Zoro. No, the swordsman was a human, a person, even if he called him 'marimo' and all sorts of other insults.

Then he realised it. Zoro had never had freedom. Not even as a young boy: he was tormented and teased by the others of his village, only having one friend and his family. He had to be kept hidden away from the mocking voices and claws. It was a wonder that the man didn't still hate him for calling him marimo... Perhaps he did. Perhaps this man he loved actually still hated him, for disrupting his life and giving him additional things to have to dwell on.

And yet here he was, relentlessly being selfish, wanting to find Zoro just so they could be together. Ah, he was the worst of the worst. He was scum. Almost at once, his dreams seemed to shatter, the splinters and shards surging out to spear him through the chest, again and again this guilt and shame-

Why did he always have to be like this? Like the way he pestered Zoro to tell him about his past. And now he was being troublesome for these people who were brought along. They had their own lives to live, their own work to do... He had to change. If he wanted to protect Zoro, he needed to remove the source of the pain. That being; the mob... and himself.

"Hey, Sanji, aren't you listening?"

Usopp's tanned finger tapped the blonde on his head. Abruptly straightening his back, he noticed everyone in the room staring at him. Concerned. Some of them barely even knew him, and yet they were concerned.

An auburn haired head made it's way through the little crowd towards. Nami. Hah, the girl he once adored just had to be there, didn't she...

"Sanji, we all know Zoro, you know." The girl set her hands on her wide hips haughtily. "So don't think we're helping just because we were asked to! Moreover, don't you dare take on everything by yourself."

"She's right! We're all here for you and Zoro!" Luffy grinned. "We want to help!"

The chef's tired gaze wandered over the faces of his... allies, illuminated by the brilliant light of the room. Eight pairs of eyes; all different, all encouraging. All seeming to say "We can do it" and "Don't worry". He felt a slight weight seem to slide off his back, slick, but how could he not worry? As strong as Zoro was... It wasn't that he didn't trust him, that he didn't trust these friends...

A gentle cough requested their attention. In unison, they turned to Ace - already, they were connected. One hand held his phone, and the other shoved awkwardly into a pocket, he licked his lip with a quick dart of his tongue. "I'm not convinced I should tell Smokey- uh, I mean my boss- about this or not." The raven haired man raised an eyebrow at the mobile he held, frowning. "Because I know whatever I say will be rejected and stopped. That old man would just try to figure out a plan for himself that would probably take a million years to commence."

"Is that why you didn't inform Kaku and Kalifa?" Chopper questioned, scratching his neck thoughtfully.

"Yes. I sent them to watch over a different part of the hospital." Robin nodded. "Of course, they are suspicious, but we must hope they do not mention anything."

Once again, Sanji slipped into his own world, disregarding his comrades and their discussion. Subconsciously, the chef felt remorse for not being able to focus, especially since they were talking about how to rescue Zoro. Being the one most urgent about finding him, it was rather shameful.

He glanced down at his palms. Whiter than usual, they were cold, even the little scars along his fingers from his childhood: where he'd over-enthusiastically practiced with the knives, a little burn mark on the side of his hand just below his left pinky finger. Remember; the feeling of the warm skin of Zoro's cheek under his thumb, from those times where he'd let him try to do the same facial recognition as him. The delicate grooves and bumps of the scar over his left eye: yet another untold story. The buzzing heat when they fought one another, triggering the adrenaline.

'Boss' now had that person that gave him so much happiness, so many strange new feelings. What would the man do to Zoro? Having to hunt down the swordsman himself; Zoro must be important to them. It must be because he was with them for so long. Because he knew too much about them.

Then they needed to dispose of him...

Or worse, torture him as a punishment for leaving. Until Zoro wanted to die, but on and on would they torture him, make him wish he never existed...

From within, Sanji felt himself start to shake. His open hands before him trembled, reverberating up his arms and down his spine. No wonder the blind man wanted to hide the truth. Such things were too dark to speak of.

Shallow breaths escaped his throat. He'd realised it. As promised, he would protect, shelter Zoro... by bringing that man to justice. He would kill him if he needed to. He would have every last one of them put in jail. He would clear Zoro's name, because he was innocent, despite every last person he was forced to assassinate.

And he would let Zoro go.

Because he was the final thing holding the swordsman back.

Freedom. It was to be returned.

Quietly, he mumbled "I need... a break.", so softly it was as though he was speaking to himself. Without waiting for an answer, the blonde slipped out the door of the office.

Already was it a Stygian gloom outside, the winding path leading away from the hospital irradiated by the steady glow of the lamps. It was just barely past 7:30PM, and yet the sky was pitch black, looming, dreading. Not even a single crystalline star to brighten the inky bloom of the heavens. Winter was approaching; the days were short, the cotton nights pulled longer and thinner. Hefty footsteps - quick, strong - echoed through the darkness, as Sanji raced through the stillness that held it's breath, waiting to see what he'd do.

Autumn chill bit his skin. Shivering, he ran faster. He had no map of the village, and no means of getting there. So why was he running? Why did he have to go, there and then, without waiting for the others, without thinking of the consequences? Was this the work of love? Or was he just still a fickle, naïve boy? He wasn't going to survive this. But he would do everything he could to make sure Zoro did. With each soaring step, Sanji used only the thought of giving the blind man the freedom he deserved to push himself on.

If he could leave tonight, then he surely should be able to get to the village in the midst of the night, which allowed easier movement; as he recalled his best friend saying in reference to Shimotsuki village: "... which, just so you know, is actually just a few hour's boat ride from here.". However, he had no idea which direction it was in, and he highly doubted there would be any boat and sailor that would willingly take him there. Nonetheless, it was worth checking the ferry pier.

Unprepared for anything, and yet running head-on into the enemy's territory. Wasn't this more like a death wish, than a rescue mission?

A single bulb protruding from the overhead of the wooden canopy dimly lit the entrance to the pier, stark and feeble. "It needs to be replaced soon..." The blonde hastily thought to himself as he entered.

The old man that was there earlier was gone. As was the disagreeable youth, with a large middle aged woman with eccentric, lime-green hair in replacement. Along a wall were all the destinations the boats of their city would lead to, roughly etched into ancient, stained plaques with the time the next boat would depart tucked into a slot beside them. None. None read 'Shimotsuki Village'. Sanji's heart sunk. Drowning. He needed to get there, now.

"Boy, are you heading somewhere?" The woman at the counter smiled, her red lipstick stretched upon her wrinkled lips, shrill voice grating.

His deep blue eyes met hers - and for a moment, he felt he could trust her. But what if she was one of them, the mob...? He couldn't trust anyone, now that he knew everything.

"A secret, is it? Well, you look unhappy. Your destination not on the wall?"

That much, he could answer. "Yeah..."

"You might need to make a crossover then!" A high-pitched voice from under the counter piped up.

Shocked, Sanji took a step back. What the hell?

"Hush, Chimney! You're not even meant to be here, darling." The woman hissed, leaning down to talk to whoever 'Chimney' was under the counter. "Forgive me, that was my granddaughter. But yes, a crossover. If you tell me where you're headed, I could be of help." She smiled cheerfully, her saggy cheeks rosy.

Outside, the sway and roll, tumbles of the waves crashed against the sides of the pier as Sanji hesitated, then stepped forwards, whispering the name of the village into the old woman's ear. What made him do what he did, he didn't know. Perhaps it was the presence of her granddaughter that made her seem more... trustworthy.

She sucked in her breath. "Ooo, lad, you're heading to a dark, dark place," She shook her head sadly. "I'm afraid there aren't any boats or crossovers that go there."

His heart pummelled to the ground. That couldn't be... that simply couldn't be... "I- I need to get there, tonight. Please, don't you know any way of getting there?!" With each word, Sanji voice took a higher and higher pitch, his hands slammed onto the counter. It was humiliating; he sounded as if he were begging. Like he was worthless and couldn't do anything on his own. Like a child.

With her own worn hands, the woman patted Sanji's. "Calm down, lad. Cool your head, or you won't be able to work at your full potential."

He looked down at her hands that covered his. They were comfortingly warm, veiny and rugged, in smooth grey wrinkles from age; some areas of her fingers were rubbed red, the skin hard, as though she'd been gripping something for many, many years. He looked at his own. Young, fleshy pink and white and peach, and those scars - from his youth and hard work.

"They do have an import boat that docks once every few months. Maybe it's here today. Their visits aren't frequent, so go and look along where the boats are." She patted his hands again, and let go, reaching down to pull out a bottle of... booze. "That's all I can help you with. Sorry! Good luck, sonny. You'll need it while you're there."

Sanji had already turned to leave as soon as she'd lifted her hands off his. There was no time to waste. "Thank you," he called out, as he shot through the doorway, and into the night.

A small head popped up from under the counter, matching lime green hair tied in two large pigtails bobbing slightly. "Granny, why was that man in such a rush?"

The old woman, Kokoro, sighed, and took a swig from her bottle of alcohol with a grin. "I think he's looking for someone. Someone precious to him, maybe?"

Wandering along the docks, Sanji scrutinised each and every boat, whether dingy or large, searching for a hint as to where they were heading. Most had plaques similar to the ones he saw in the pier. Each boat he passed caused frustration to grow within him, screaming and crying, tearing at his heart. "Please, let the next one be the right boat..." he kept wishing. Alas, all were headed to different places.

Step by step, feeling more and more lost.

Until finally, he had reached the end. Only a small number of the boats had no indication as to their terminus. And he couldn't just loot through them.

Limp, he stared out into the horizon. The murky black of the sky was heavy, as if finally touching the sea that twisted and turned, troubled and strayed. Blowing winds haphazardly pushed the hair form his face. "Nature's mocking me, isn't it," he thought listlessly to himself. "The entire fucking world is mocking me. The one thing... the one person I'm so sure of... they won't let me be with him, they won't even let me help him...

"I don't want that night to be our last," He sat, his knees weak. The night was so desolate. So lonely, a day without Zoro...

The waves stirred below, colliding with the corroding wood of the docks. Salty droplets leapt on to his shoes and pants. Everything blurred, and he closed his eyes.

Could he imagine what it was like to be blind? Could he still be able to smile, to carry on without eyes, the way Zoro did? Could he endure the same agony and tribulation as Zoro? Zoro... Zoro... praying for his safety...

Harsh voices in the distance awakened him from his thoughts. He turned, squinting into the darkness, his heart thumping in surprise.

Two figures passed under a lamp.

Two figures: one with purple hair, one with long white-blonde hair, trailing out of the neck of his-

Black coat, lined with fur. The other man wore the same.

Sanji reeled back in horror. Those two- he saw them at the Baratie. They were the men Ace had warned him about.

He got on both feet, staying low, hidden. The men stopped at a fishing boat, and he held his breath.

Undisturbed, they turned, and boarded.

Each foot that touched the boardwalk caused indecision to torrent through Sanji's mind. One by one - now was the chance: sneak on... or wait for his allies to come to a decision.